Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heligman. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2009. 268 pages.
1. A succinct evaluative annotation. Plot: [Conflict] Charles Darwin decides to marry, but the woman he wants to marry is religious whereas he believes in a scientific answer. He also is doing research to find answers about evolution which was not looked highly upon in the 1800s. [Rising Action] Charles marries Emma and starts his research for evolution. [Climax] After printing his research for society to see, Charles gets both positive and negative attention. [Falling Action] Even with their differences, Emma and Charles are married for over 40 years and Charles’ work becomes more extensive in his research. [Resolution] Charles and Emma live happily together and Charles’s work continues on after he passes away, changing religion and science in the 1800s. Theme: The themes in this book include history, science, religion, faith, love, and a change in society. Tone: The tone of this book is very educational, descriptive, and historical. The author is retelling the lives of Charles and Emma Darwin in a way that will try and capture the attention of young adults. It is very serious and very straight forward for a young adult book. Style: The author’s writing style is very formal. There is no dialogue which might deter young adults from reading this book. Also, the author uses a lot of quotes from other sources, which is referenced at the end of the book. Characterizations: Charles is very serious. He takes things one step at a time, always making a list, not very religious but more scientific. He wants answers and will study his experiments until he feels that he has all of the answers he can get. Emma is very much the opposite. She is disorganized, religious, and spontaneous. However, she is the sweetest woman one ever met and she is dedicated to her family. Very kind, patient, and loving. Readability: This was a tough book to read. I struggled to get through the beginning and got used to the writing style, but one needs to keep going to read this amazing story.
2. My reactions to the book. I have mixed feelings about this book. At first, I could not get into the story at all. It took me forever to get through the first 50 pages, but I kept going back and trying again because I wanted to read this book. After that struggle, I got into the story and was able to read it for long periods of time. The one thing that I would say is the weakness of this novel is the way it is written. The content is great, but the narrative, no dialogue, long sentences and paragraphs were very hard to get used to. Since this is a young adult novel, I would have to say that the audience should want to read this book because it’s not for a light read for fun. As for the strength, I think the content is its best strength. After getting past the different writing style, the reader learns a lot about the subject of Charles and Emma Darwin’s life in the 1800s. The information is very accurate and the author makes note of where she got the information from to make sure that the information is correct.
3. Comment on the cover art. The cover art could be improved. A history, science, or religious reader might be intrigued by the cover because of what it represents, but any other reader might not be into the art. I will say, though, that the cover does portray the content of the story very well and gives the viewer/reader the whole story based on the 3 characters of the cover. However, I think if the author wanted to attract more of an audience, changing the cover would be one of the many steps to do if it is to be reprinted.