Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Charles and Emma named a National Book Award Finalist

In Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith author Deborah Heilgiman offers a view of how science and spiritual belief can be reconciled: Charles Darwin's own perspective developed through life with his deeply religious, intelligent, and beloved wife, Emma.
Deborah tells the story of their marriage and how it became the context in which Darwin revealed his world-altering theory in The Origin of the Species. Rather than publishing a broadside that could have sparked backlash, Darwin presented his research with respect and care for the beliefs of others--an approach formed in conversations about faith and fact with his wife. The wide reaction to its publication was civilized discourse and, eventually, acceptance of the breakthrough that underlies modern biological science.
Based on letter, diaries, and notebooks of the couple, as well as writings by their family, friends and critics, Charles and Emma provides a vivid portrait of domestic life in Victorian England. Heiligman humanizes Darwin, showing readers a man as devoted to his children as he was to his work. Two hundred years after Darwin's birth, Charles and Emma can be read as a history of science, a biography, and a romance--as well as proof and a promise that faith and science can co-exist.
"The marriage of Charles and Emma Darwin proves that science and religion not only can exist side by side but can benefit from each other. Emma was Charles's first editor and best reader; her skepticism pushed him to make his argument stronger," says Deborah Heiligman.
At the end of the book at the very end of the acknowledgment page (not to be missed!) Deb wrote this, "And, finally, thank you to Charles and Emma. You two are just the best. I am going to miss you."
After you read this book, dear reader, you, too, will miss this wonderful couple. Charles and Emma will capture your heart. You will laugh and you will weep many times. You'll laugh in the beginning as Charles sets down his list of reasons to marry or not. There are funny moments with the children. You'll laugh at how Charles reacts when he catches one of his sons jumping up and down on a new couch (sturdily made for child wear). You'll be moved by the poignancy of the love between Charles and Emma that never waned. Perhaps you will shed tears over page 100 as I did, and grieve with them over the terminal illness of their good and beloved daughter, Annie.
For me, this book was reminiscent in its good heart and loving spirit of the beloved March family--Jo, Beth, Amy, and Meg and their Marmee in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. If you love the March girls, you will love Charles and Emma.
Deborah Heiligman's book Charles and Emma received starred reviews from: Publisher's Weekly, The Horn Book, and Booklist
Charles and Emma is a National Book Award Finalist
A New York Times Editors' Choice
A Book Links top 10 Biographies for Youth
A Booklist Top 10 Romances for Youth
More awards will surely be added to this list!
Thank you all for joining me, and thanks for leaving comments here!
You can also comment by e-mailing me:
Joan sent this comment:
"Thanks, Clara. I love biographies and this sounds fascinating! Gotta get it. Besides, religion is my favorite subject for discussion. I'm somewhere between Charles and Emma. What about you?"
Carriann wrote this in an e-mail:
"I will read this month's interview with great interest. I saw what I call a blurb on this book somewhere and thought about reading it myself. Thanks for all your hard work to enlighten and enrich us."
Barbaranne wrote this:
"How very interesting. I will be certain to tune in weekly to read. I look forward to gleaning wisdom as well as being privy to stories of royal adventure."
Next week Debeorah will share her thoughts on the writing of the book along with writing advice and much more.
The lucky winner of the drawing will receive an autographed copy of Charles and Emma directly from Deb!


  1. This book is on my must read list! As a science teacher I can't wait to see the "human" side of Charles Darwin. Thanks for telling us about this wonderful book, Clara.

  2. Jennifer,
    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! I know you'll love this book as I do. This is a treasure that you'll want to have in your personal library to share and to keep. cg

  3. I recently read Alice B. McGinty's book on Darwin, which is a picture book (she lives in my area) and I was really impressed with the facts I learned about Darwin. (I reviewed the book on my blog too--it's under McGinty if anyone wants to check it out). Anyway, I would love to learn more about Darwin and his family, and this sounds like a good book to do it with! Congrats on the National Book Award finalist. How exciting.

    Margo Dill

  4. Thanks, Margo! I didn't know about the picture book, so I'll go over and visit your blog now. This is an exciting time, and I'm thrilled that Deb took the time out of her especially busy schedule to share thoughts with us.