This Thing of Darkness
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This Thing of Darkness

4.46 of 5 stars 4.46  ·  rating details  ·  780 ratings  ·  116 reviews
1828 - Brilliant young naval officer Robert FitzRoy is given the captaincy of HMS Beagle, surveying the wilds of Tierra del Fuego, aged just twenty-three. He takes a passenger: a young trainee cleric and amateur geologist named Charles Darwin. This is the story of a deep friendship between two men, and the twin obsessions that tore it apart, leading one to triumph and the...more
Paperback, 626 pages
Published 2005 by Review
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Brendon Schrodinger
'This Thing of Darkness' tells the story of Robert FitzRoy, brilliant naval man, father of meteorology and friend of Charles Darwin.This is technically a fictional account of his life, but it really is a novel written around factual sources from FitzRoy's logs, Darwin's writings and other historical data. Thompson has written a magnificent character piece around this historical data.Thompson goes on to write an afterword that outlines exactly how little he embellished the story, in most instance...more
Nancy Oakes
not a spoiler; a synopsis:

I don't care what Anyone says about this book -- it was phenomenal. I read someone's take on the book, noting (negatively) that Charles Darwin doesn't put in an appearance until late in the book, but that's because this book is NOT about Charles Darwin, but rather about Robert FitzRoy, the commander of the HMS Beagle, who took on Charles Darwin as a naturalist and companion. Obviously, it has to deal with Darwin, but the true story is that of FitzRoy's.

The book begins...more
Gabrielle regam
May 16, 2008 Gabrielle regam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: My dad (the old sea dog) and my bookclub
Just finished this book and was so moved I went straight to Wiki to find out about all the characters. When I first took up the book I thought, oh dear, first novel and a biggie at that, hope he doesn't ramble. However, every page was necessary to weave this extraordinary story. The prose was just beautiful (reminded me of Star of the Sea).

Such a tragedy that Thompson died the year of its publication at the early age of 45. His first and only novel - I would have looked forward to reading much m...more
Marco
When I finished reading this book, the first statement that made it through my mind was something said by Morgan Freeman's character Detective Somerset by the end of the movie Se7en:

'Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for."

I agree with the second part.'

This book chronicles the adventure of Captain Robert FitzRoy and the crew of HMS Beagle, joined by Charles Darwin later on as the ship's naturalist-cum-village-idiot, as they traversed the Atlantic to the...more
Madzia
Though I am not part of a nation that ever succeeded in forming an empire, and which, historically, has been a victim more often than an oppressor, I am nevertheless a citizen of modern Europe and reaping the benefits of Western, Christian-rooted civilisation - as well as the privileges my skin colour offers. I mention this because as I read Thompson's book, the overwhelming and recurring emotions were embarrassment and dismay at the destruction white man has brought upon nations of a darker ski...more
Penny
I really enjoyed this book much to my surprise!
About Captain Robert Fitzroy, (a man plagued by what would be called today Bipolor disorder )commisioned by the government to navigate and map South America and Tierra del Fuego, He takes along a young naturalist one Charles Darwin. They are on completely opposite sides of an argument. Fitzroy being a commited christian believing that every human and creature on earth has been created by the grace of God, an argument still under discussion by some...more
Mary
Absolutely brilliant - totally captivating, couldn't put it down! There are so many wonderful aspects to this book: the scene setting of the period it's set in, the moral and religious issues covered, learning more about Darwin and Fitzroy and just the incredible story told.

I am fascinated by these clever Victorians who were ahead of their time and pushed the boundaries like no others and faced ridicule from the general public. But at the same time quite disgusted and saddened by the thinking o...more
Marlene
Sep 06, 2011 Marlene rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs, tales of sea voyages, Charles Darwin, naturalists.....
Loved it, loved it, loved it!! This is by far my all time favorite book. It's a 10 for sure. It's very accurate and well researched account of Captain Robert Fitzroy and his voyage mapping out the South American coast, on the HMS Beagle. After finding natives he returns to England with them in an effort to civilize them. About a year later, he makes a second voyage returning them believing they can in turn civilize their own, with tragic results. It's on this second trip he commissions a young a...more
Maria Thermann
I loved this book and thought it well written, very thought-provoking and one that stayed with me for a long time. It shows "everybody's hero" Charles Darwin in quite a different light, in fact, I won't ever hear his name in the future and think, hey he was an all-round good egg - far from it! Thompson is a spell-binding storyteller and Robert FitzRoy's "thing of darkness" certainly struck a chord with me, a fellow sufferer.

I didn't want the novel to end, when it did, I felt bereavement, especi...more
Darrell Woods
A strange novel, that if entirely fictional you would say was a bit, well, odd. To then find out that the entire core narrative is based on real life transforms this into a book that stays with you.
Poor Fitzroy - an extremely talented naval officer, always seeking to do the right thing, while surrounded by shady unscrupulous characters. Darwin of course is the famous one, but he flits in and out if the tale, and it is always to Fitzroy that we return.
Not an adventure novel, despite the packaging...more
Gilly McGillicuddy
If I could give it six, seven, eight stars I would.

A whopper of a book but an absolutely amazing one. It's Darwin and Robert FitzRoy's life story, immaculately well researched, beautifully written and absolutely on a par with the O'Brian, Barrett and you know... God.
Very warmly recommended.
Jamie
Whilst the cover of the book would lead you to believe that this is a nautical adventure in the style of Forester's 'Hornblower', the title hints at the real subject of the novel. This is not to say that Harry Thompson does not weave a convincing portrait of life at sea; he does (at least to this layman) and the extensive bibliography at the back hints at a deep scholarship underlying the narrative. Yet it is the 'Thing of Darkness' that pervades the story, as the protagonist FitzRoy struggles w...more
James Barnard
It is a shame that Harry Thompson’s untimely death, not long after his one and only novel was published, robbed us of what would undoubtedly have been a phenomenal body of work. However, This Thing of Darkness stands – along with his exceptional status as a comedy producer par excellence, and his insightful journalism – as a wonderful legacy.

It is a shame this didn’t make it onto the Man Booker Prize shortlist, as it certainly deserved to do – but then as a first time author he’d have needed mo...more
Nicole
In depth retelling of the HMS Beagle's main personnel and their adventures that extended into so many lives. Captain Robert FitzRoy, repeatedly dipping into his own fortune to complete a mapping of the region, has not been surpassed until satellite telemetry. The Fugian natives destroyed by they interactions with the alien culture and missionary zeal. Darwin who came to disturb the complacent views with a collection of data and summary he eventually published in his 1859 book 'On the Origin of S...more
Gee
Having just finished This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson, I struggled a little with how I felt about the experience of reading it. I certainly learnt something from the reading, I drew parallels with the current day and issues and I found myself emotionally involved with the tragedies and triumphs of the characters described. But did I enjoy it?

This Thing of Darkness is the only novel published by Harry Thompson, who passed away from cancer at the far too early age of 45. Previously, he wa...more
Emily Sours
this is a fictional retelling of darwin's voyage on the hms beagle, but also includes the stories of captain fitzgerald, the captain of the ship and good friend of darwin, and other characters they encounter in their voyage. it very much brings to life darwin as a human being, as i had no idea he spent time in argentina as a gaucho, adept with the bolas. more in depth, though, is the story of captain fitzgerald and his lifelong fight with humanity's ills and his belief in a higher being, which i...more
Cygny
It took me ages to finish this book but not because it wasn't any good. I sometimes had a bit of trouble with the more nautical terms but probably would have in Dutch as well. It was interesting to see Darwin's story from another point of view. I'm not sure I find Darwin himself a nice person, but then Fitzroy was an entirely different man and his view of Darwin must have been influenced by their different opinions. This being said, I'm not sure I'm very fond of Fitzroy either. He had a lot of b...more
Marie Smith
Extremely enjoyable and would certainly have loved to have read more by the author.

It is a difficult book to put down and the debates between Darwin and FitzRoy leave you questioning your own beliefs.

The characters come to life and you find yourself growing attached to them, almost as if you are seeing life through their eyes. It also leaves you with a thirst to know more about the adventures of the Beagle and the life's of Darwin, FitzRoy and their descendants, perhaps more of history should...more
Nicholas Griffith
This is, without doubt, one of the best books i've ever read. If you want a book that will keep you occupied for at least a few weeks (it's almost 800 pages) pick this up. It's the voyage of the beagle as centered around the life of Captain Robert Fitzroy versus Darwin. It's really as true to history as a novel can be. I'll always remember this book because I realized that the Captain of the beagle actually had a much more interesting life than Charles Darwin.
Andrew Corrie
Superb. The central paradox: Darwin finds himself on the right side of the scientific argument, is lionized, but emerges as a bit of a cad. Fitzroy, the prickly genius of a mariner, also a man of science, finds himself tragically outcast by all and sundry and yet emerges as the warmer, kinder, nobler man.
Melissa Kane
Brilliant! What an amazing book. 744 pages, all told, but well worth the three weeks it took me to read. What an incredible piece of scholarship and of writing. Bravo!
Amy
This wonderful novel deserves to be much better known and widely read. It's an adventure story, a scientific treatise, a double biography, a meditation on the existence of God, a diatribe against colonisation, an exploration of mental illness and a study in leadership and duty. Robert Fitzroy emerges as a man ahead of his time in many ways (in his enlightened leadership of his crew and his belief in the potential for accurate weather forecasting), with a blind spot when it comes to his friend Da...more
Naomi
What a powerful read. Tells the sad story of Robert Fitzroy, his relationship with Charles Darwin and their voyage aboard The Beagle and their lives subsequently. Fitzroy was not really recognised for his accomplishments while living, but has been somewhat subsequently. I travelled to some of the places they did two years ago, amazing detail in the book and do wonderful to relive those places once again! A moving story that highlights the British need to try and 'civilise' everyone and how cruel...more
Carolina
Um dos melhores romances históricos que ja li.
Kevin
This historical novel focuses on Robert FitzRoy, who begins the book as the Captain of the HMS Beagle, and Charles Darwin, who is taken on the Beagle as their resident philosopher and naturalist. During the voyage, which lasts over 5 years, Darwin begins to discover the evidence that would lead him to publish The Origin of Species.

The central conflict that evolves between the two men (and continues well after the voyage is over) is essentially a religious dispute that still rages today - is evo...more
Roger Bailey
This is a biographical novel, but it is not a biographical novel about the person I thought it was about. It is not a biographical novel about Charles Darwin. It is a biographical novel about Robert Fitzroy, the captain of the Beagle. I was more interested in Darwin, but Fitzroy's life is rather fascinating too and I learned quite a lot about him. Even though, being a work of fiction, a lot of dialog is made up and some events are conflated on purpose the author adheres very well to the historic...more
Vikram
Aug 02, 2011 Vikram added it
This Thing of Darkness is historical fiction, dealing primarily with the characters who sailed on the HMS Beagle. The most famous of these is of course Charles Darwin, but the book deals mainly with the captain of the Beagle, Robert FitzRoy. FitzRoy is an interesting character, a religious person of unbending Christian faith, selfless and generous to the extreme, scientifically inclined and prone to bouts of manic depression.
FitzRoy and Darwin start out great friends, being like minded in their...more
Peregrino
Sep 12, 2008 Peregrino rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Peregrino by: Juan Mari
Apasionante novela que describe la vida del contralmirante de la armada británica Robert FitzRoy, ejemplar marino que es normalmente conocido en la Historia por haber sido el capitán del Beagle, pequeño balandro donde se embarcó Darwin, y donde engendró las ideas que le llevaron a escribir su famoso “El origen de las especies”.

La vida de FitzRoy transcurre en la primera mitad del siglo XIX, época de grandes cambios en la civilización. Impresiona el valor de aquellos hombres que se hacían a la ma...more
Tyas
HMS Beagle is just a small surveying brig, but she’s famous all over the world because it was on her did Charles Darwin went voyaging to the places which would inspire him to formulate his natural selection theory. But there were so many things happening before, during, and after the voyage that Harry Thompson decided to write a thick novel (over 600 pages in the edition that I owned), focusing more on the captain, Robert FitzRoy, whose tragic fate you probably have known from his biographies or...more
Matija
Wow. What a thrilling ride, or better yet, a sail, this book is. We're talking absolutely captivating historical fiction (19th century), centering on the characters connected to the famous HMS Beagle's second voyage, primarily Beagle's somewhat tragic figure of Captain Robert FitzRoy, and, of course, the famous biologist Charles Darwin.

I really love reading about ships and sea voyages for some reason, despite not really understaing at least half of the naval terminology used in such books. My l...more
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Harry William Thompson was an English radio and television producer, comedy writer, novelist and biographer. Early in his career Thompson produced the radio comedy programmes The News Quiz and The Mary Whitehouse Experience. Following his move into television, he produced Newman and Baddiel in Pieces, Harry Enfield and Chums and Monkey Dust, and co-produced Never Mind The Buzzcocks. In 1998 he was...more
More about Harry Thompson...
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