February 12th marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. This book, CHARLES AND EMMA (Holt, 2009) marks the life of a remarkable man and his equally remarkable wife. Charles and Emma is biography, love story, science text, and so much more. Suddenly terms like evolution, natural selection and social Darwinism have a deeper meaning for me. Emma was Charles' first cousin and a member of the prestigious Wedgewood family. Their marriage was one of passion and of debate and of partnership. Charles believed in science; Emma was quite religious. Her overriding concern as Charles was working on THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES was not that he would be criticized by others but that she would not be reunited with him in the afterlife. Parents of ten children, 3 of whom dies in childhood, the Darwins were doting people who encouraged their children to speak their minds.
The book has a rather non-linear structure, unusual for a biography but perfect somehow for these subjects. Quotes from letters and books and other missives abound making Charles and Emma the incredibly complex people they were during their lifetime. I have never been a huge fan of nonfiction, but it is a book like this one that draws me back to nonfiction for another dip. And makes me now want to read ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES. If I did not have stacks of books already threatening to maim me, I would find the time. Regrettably, that time is not now.