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This Thing of Darkness

4.47  ·  Rating Details ·  1,207 Ratings  ·  166 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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(showing 1-30 of 2,703)
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Brendon Schrodinger
Jul 19, 2014 Brendon Schrodinger rated it it was amazing
'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
Gabrielle regam
May 16, 2008 Gabrielle regam rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 15, 2012 Madzia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nautical
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
Aug 21, 2012 Marco rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 01, 2013 Penny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
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
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
Gilly McGillicuddy
Oct 20, 2008 Gilly McGillicuddy rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Gilly by: Halfpint Jack
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.
Sep 06, 2011 Marlene rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 08, 2012 Maria Thermann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Darrell Woods
Mar 31, 2015 Darrell Woods rated it really liked it
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
Jane Lythell
Jun 28, 2015 Jane Lythell rated it it was amazing
Majestic. A doorstep of a book that vividly brings to life Robert FitzRoy the Captain of the Beagle and his five year voyage with Charles Darwin to Tierra del Fuego, the Falklands, the Galapagos and beyond. The two men became close during the voyage but differences in their beliefs started as a crack and widened to a chasm. There are some marvellous discussions between the two men on whether the Biblical Flood ever happened and whether species can transmute. The book has two magnificent descript ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Jamie rated it really liked it
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
Apr 23, 2014 James Barnard rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2015 Nelson rated it it was amazing
Wonderful narrative. Although fiction, it is based on actual events on the five year trip of Charles Darwin and Captain Robert Fitzroy aboard the HMS Beagle. Follow Darwin as he collects evidence and builds up his Evolutionary Theory. Although Darwin is the famous character, the most interesting is, by far, Captain Fitzroy . You can feel the deep psychological conflict that Fitzroy experiences trying to reconcile first, the 19th century politics of the Britsh Navy with his ingrained ethics and s ...more
John Doez
"Hacia los confines del mundo" es un libro que abarca muchas cosas. En casi mil páginas que no aburren en ningún momento tiene lugar para hacerlo.

Primero, sería un libro de aventuras en el que el lector acompaña a Robert Fitzpatrick, capitán del Beagle, y a Charles Darwin en sus andanzas alrededor del mundo. Son personajes complejos, así como la relación existente entre ellos.

Segundo, es un libro histórico. Tanto Darwin como Fitzpatrick fueron personajes reales y el libro trata de describir el t
Mar 29, 2008 Nicole rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2012 Gee rated it liked it
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
Emily Brown
Jan 29, 2012 Emily Brown rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, history, kindle
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
Juan Hidalgo
Oct 14, 2015 Juan Hidalgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Soberbia combinación de aventuras, ciencia y biografía, pero centrada en la vida del capitán del Beagle, Robert FitzRoy y donde el papel del gran Charles Darwin queda un poco en segundo término. Se trata de realzar (y hacer justicia) a un hombre contra el que se confabularon la enfermedad, su propio carácter, su rectitud moral y algunos enemigos para hacerle pasar por la historia con menos esplendor del que merecía, cosa a la que, por supuesto, también contribuyó la inmensa popularidad que adqui ...more
Feb 24, 2013 Cygny rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, darwin
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
Matt Cooley
May 12, 2016 Matt Cooley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At times brutal.
Well written.
Delves deep into Fitzroy's character, his state of mind, his successes and setbacks, his perseverance in the face of ignorance, dirty politics, nepotism and cronyism.
An under appreciated steadfast hero.
Feb 05, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
I won't give a full review because I think it's all been said, but what I will mention is that I knew I was going to like this book from reading only the preface. Harry Thompson has a good, solid style which he uses masterfully in this rendering of the Darwin/FitzRoy story. Some have chided the late appearance of Darwin himself, but this is a moot point when considering that the story centers mainly around the ship's captain and his crew. I have read a number of fictional accounts of the Beagle, ...more
Marie Smith
Apr 04, 2013 Marie Smith rated it it was amazing
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
Jayne Taylor
Dec 10, 2015 Jayne Taylor rated it really liked it
Shelves: spice-book-club
It's taken me two and a half months but I did it. Because I enjoyed it - it was easy to read and story very interesting just SO long. Someone spoiled the ending for me early on - but then so much happened before I got there, that it didn't matter - what a man - he did so many things in his life. I did find the ending a very short disappointing chapter, but that doesn't detract anything from how good the whole book was. (However - I am relieved that I can now move on and read something else)
Nicholas Griffith
Apr 19, 2009 Nicholas Griffith rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 10, 2016 Gemma rated it it was amazing
Wow...I didn't just love this book, I lived it. It spoke to me in a very special way, about life, death, love, hope, despair and the inner turmoils and emotions that accompany us through the journeys we make, both physical and metaphorical. This book had everything; action and excitement, science and religion, love and war. I cannot recommend this book enough. It became my companion and I am feeling very lonely now that I have finished it.
Feb 06, 2016 Wolfgang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really great read !! It is at the same time an old-fashioned adventure novel and the biography of Robert FitzRoy, the captain of the Beagle. The Beagle is the British ship that took Charles Darwin around the world and to to the Galapagos Islands amongst many other destinations .

Of course, Darwin and FitzRoy's controversy over the "Origin of Species" after the return are a central element of the book. But, this book is about FitzRoy's life and many accomplishments. Many aspects of the life roug
Helen Cooley
Apr 17, 2016 Helen Cooley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding book. An exciting tale of two extraordinary men - Captain Robert FitzRoy, captain of the HMS Beagle - and his passenger, the young naturalist Charles Darwin.

This 850-ish page novel is the story of their voyages around South America, which drove both of them to discover their ground-breaking new ideas which influenced the course of their entire lives.

Yet while Darwin found fame and appreciation in his lifetime, the equally astonishing FitzRoy seems to have been way ahead of his ti
Andrew Corrie
Sep 06, 2013 Andrew Corrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, fiction, science
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.
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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
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