Darwin's Dragons by Lindsay Galvin (Chicken House Ltd.)
Copy loaned to me by the KentishBookBoy
As predicted last year when my nephew and I were reading and reviewing together the time has come where he has fallen in love with a book so much he was insistent I read - and he even lent me his treasured copy.
I feel a bit bad as shortly after I saw KBB and he lent me the book a whole new raft of reading for a project came up and Darwin's Dragons slipped down my to read pile for a while. However a wet and stormy weekend (and a text from KBB) made me abandon everything else and just settle down with this book on a Sunday afternoon.
Well I am kicking myself for not having read the books sooner as I did proceed to read the book from cover to cover during the afternoon and I found myself swept away with Galvin's story telling - the book was so visual that like all the best books as I was reading I also had a 'movie' in my mind.
The book takes Darwin's trip on HMS Beagle and his visit to the Galapagos Islands as a starting point, and the main character is his young assistant Syms Covington. A storm sees Mr Darwin fall overboard from a rowboat and Syms then saves him but is swept away as he does so. Landing on an unexplored, volcanic, island Syms's adventures continue his life is saved repeatedly by a lizard he names Farthing. In an exciting volcanic eruption Syms and Farthing save some eggs from a lava tube and then as they escape the eruption they are rescued by the Beagle.
The rest of the book is about the return to England after the full Voyage of the Beagle and then the struggle to get their ideas accepted and in keeping the lizards alive in the bleak Victorian London climate.
This summary does give just the bare elements of the story and there is so much more to it than I've explained here - and it really is quite fantastical at times, although I just managed to suspend belief and to go with the flow.
The modern day environmental message is conveyed gently and not too obviously, and the other message of getting people to believe in what you are telling them is also gentle and not too didactic.
As I came to the end of the book I wanted to know more about the Voyage of the Beagle which is always a good sign, and I had overcome my initial thoughts that I wanted the book to be the historical story and not the fantasy one. A day or so on from finishing the story I am still thinking about it (and in a positive way) so that for me marks it out as a good book!
Huge thanks to KBB for lending me this book - what shall I read next though?