• Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

      Charles Darwin's name is synonymous with evolution and all the controversy and discussion it has aroused. In this informative and entertaining book, Deborah Heiligman presents the chronology of the events in Darwin's life and explores how the people he knew and the things he experienced help to shape the ideas he developed and which came to form the basis of his The Origin of the Species. However, as the title states, this is the story of Charles and Emma Darwin, and it is Emma's influence that was most instrumental in securing the place in science, history, sociology, anthropology and religion that Darwin will always occupy. Before he married her, Darwin struggled with the decision to marry anyone, writing long lists of pros and cons. He saw colleagues whose research was hampered by family constraints, and he wondered if he would regret the loss of freedom to travel and study that having a wife and children would guarantee. The pros, however, won out and he fell in love with his first cousin, Emma.

      Emma was perfect in every way, except for her unshakable belief in God and her devotion to her religious convictions. Although her faith was initially an obstacle, their love overcame any differences they held, and she was able to help Darwin formulate theories that have been discussed and accepted by people of diverse religious beliefs.

      Deborah Heiligman tells Charles and Emma's story through the use of actual letters, diaries, newspaper accounts and journal articles. She weaves the source material into her narrative so skillfully that the reader feels like a Darwin contemporary, someone who might have lived next door or who might have read his original articles. She shows how the love that Charles and Emma felt for each other helped them raise a large family of happy, productive, affectionate children. Rosalyn Landor's narration is perfect for this work. Her refined British accent suggests the intelligence and aristocracy of the Darwins as well as their honesty, sincerity and warmth.

      This book is both love story and history text. Victorian England is vividly portrayed through Heiligman's discussions of the mores of its citizens and her descriptions of their homes, gardens, work places and retreats. Charles and Emma's love affair and childrearing make for such an absorbing story that it's hardly noticeable that the tale is expertly cloaked in rich historical facts. Although this book is intended for children and young adults, it offers a great deal for adults as well and would make an excellent choice for family listening on a long road trip or on daily errands around town.

      Charles and Emma
      Read by Rosalyn Landor
      Listening Library, unabridged: 7.7 hours on 6 CDs