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Mr. Darwin's Shooter: A Novel

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  261 ratings  ·  62 reviews
From one of Australia’s most acclaimed authors, a dazzling and deeply imagined exploration of ambition, natural marvels, and scientific discovery, and one of history’s most significant crises of faith. As a boy of thirteen, Syms Covington leaves his home in Bedford and goes to sea, passing into manhood as he sails the world, surveying Patagonia, and losing his virginity in ...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published January 21st 2008 by Grove Press (first published 1998)
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Mr. Darwin’s Shooter written by Roger McDonald told of the tales of Covington, Mr. Darwin’s assistant. The unique novel shows all the untold work of the forgotten assistant. The book does not focus on just the discoveries for Darwin’s research, but the knowledge learned and tested as these discoveries were made. As time goes on, Covington struggles with the true meaning of life and creation. The more science he discovers, the less religion becomes believable. Every voyage brings Covington closer ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘No, a man does not have to be just as he seems. He can be more, in the light of understanding.’

This novel has been crafted around the life of Syms Covington, who was servant and assistant to Charles Darwin on the second voyage of the Beagle (December 1831 to September 1936). Covington was 15 when this voyage set sail, Darwin was 23.

There are two time periods to this narrative: the first focuses on the early life of Syms Covington and his travels with Darwin; the second focuses on him as an agi
Phil Doherty
Roger McDonald has written a superb story that starts out with a young boy working for Charles Darwin, collecting his specimens for him and chasing down the wildlife that is shot down for study and dissection etc.
Many years later the boy (Syms Covington) has grown into manhood and is living in Sydney, Australia, in a comunity called Watson's Bay, which is an idyllic beach setting located just inside the entrance to Sydney. His own religeous beliefs are such that he believes in the bible as writt
So I read this book for school and it was really "ehh." The beginning was extraordinarily boring and I really didn't like it at all and then it picked up a little but never really felt like it went anywhere. I also felt slightly mislead because this book is not at all about Darwin's time with Covington, it's mostly about Covington before working with Darwin and then after. He spends less than a fifth of the book actually working with Darwin, which just felt misleading. The writing was okay, not ...more
An historical novel based on the seafaring life of Sym Covington, servant to Charles Darwin, on his remarkable Beagle journey.

Startlingly likely, Covington’s character is not merely well illustrated from McDonald’s research; he is compelling and as fine a companion on a reader’s journey as he was to Mr. Darwin... that is to say, irritatingly large in character, touching and alarming in faith, fine in his ambitions and thorough in his work.

A butcher’s boy turned clerk, turned deck-hand, turned s
This book by an Australian author is about Charles Darwin's assistant, about whom little is known, but around whom McDonald spins a fascinating tale. He portrays the assistant as an ambitious & capable young man who craves but receives little credit from Darwin for his efforts. He's also a devout Christian who slowly & reluctantly (perhaps like Darwin himself?) realizes how Darwin's findings will challenge the religious belief system of that time. McDonald was able, through the eyes of t ...more
This one was actually better than I was expecting - my rating is a 3 but I'd put it closer to a 3.5. The book started off almost imcomprehensible (although I probably shouldn't have started reading past midnight), but progressively got better. I would warn anyone who would rather not read about sexual encounters that there is one that happens pretty suddenly and one that is built up to for practically an entire chapter, as well as a few random descriptions of male genitalia. Other than that, how ...more
Mr. Darwin’s Shooter was a great way to tell of an important discovery, through the life of Syms Covington rather than the life of Darwin himself. Even for readers who aren’t interested in evolution or scientific advancements, like myself, the book is still a good read.

The characters are realistic, yet interesting, and very well-developed. The plot is good, and a good portion of the book is about Covington’s life after working with Darwin instead of leading up to his time with Darwin then stopp
I thought this was a pretty interesting book. Often times we only hear of the main people that make scientific discoveries, and not all of the people behind the scenes that assisted them. Like in the case of the founding of America, little did we know that this new world had been discovered previously by the Chinese empire, then by Columbus, and then by Amerigo Vespucci who finally published his finding and had the country named after him. I had no idea about this person Syms Covington, and bein ...more
Mr. Darwin's Shooter is a creatively written novel about a man named Syms Covington who did not get the credit he deserved in history. The book follows the life of a young man seeking adventure who eventually ends up being Charles Darwin's sidekick so to speak in many of his discoveries. However, history doesn't seem to mention Covington that much when it comes to Darwin's discoveries and so this was an interesting novel to read because it really makes you think about all the other brilliant min ...more
Mr. Darwin’s Shooter is an interesting novel that focuses on the relationship between the famed naturalist and his not-so-famous assistant, Syms Covington. This book focuses less on the age-old conflict between science and religion, and more on the development of these two ambitious—if not slightly flawed—characters. McDonald also introduces the perspective of Covington’s doctor and friend, MacCracken. McDonald’s beautiful diction and meticulous character development greatly make up for the lack ...more
Marshall Moyer
Mr. Darwin's Shooter presents a unique perspective of the Scientific Revolution through the eyes of Syms Covington, the oft forgotten assistant of Charles Darwin. The book is a very interesting look into the changes and conflicts that theories such as evoltion were causing in society during the 19th century. This conflict is prominently evident in Covington, who struggles internally throughout the novel with balancing his reverent Christian faith with discoveries that he is helping Darwin make. ...more
Taylor Johnson
Mr. Darwins's Shooter, written by Roger McDonald, tells the story of Syms Covington who is a Charles Darwin's unappreciated assistant on his ship the HMS beagle. The novel switches back and forth between the time periods of Covington's childhood and his life in old age, giving perspective into the impact his voyage with Darwin had on his spiritual and overall quality of life. The entire novel seems to be a constant battle between science and religion, striving to answer the question of how life ...more
This novel goes behind the scenes of Charles Darwin's research to the man who assisted throughout the entire endeavor and was a critical part in the research: Syms Covington. By reading this book you experience Covington and two different ages; the reader gets to see Covington when he is younger and living on a ship and later assisting Darwin. The reader also gets to see an older, more irritable Covington who is good friends with a man named MacCracken. This book doesn't focus as much on the sci ...more
Barely a week after I finished reading this 130-odd fossils collected by Charles Darwin on the Beagle's voyage of 1834 have resurfaced! They were found in a cabinet in London. Joseph Hooker somehow failed to number and register them so they have been forgotten for 170 years. Remarkable! I love it when serendipitious things like this happen.

It's hard for us in 2012 to understand the earth-shaking impact of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859. Like Copernicus and other great scientists...taking on
Almost all of the story is told by flashbacks from an older Syms Covington. As a boy, Covington grew up in a poorer family, and at a young age he left to sail the seas. The author presents Convington as a talented, intelligent, yet underprivileged young man, whose education at sea was limited to self-proclaimed preachers and veteran sailors. The important part of the book revolves around Convington's time aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, and alongside Charles Darwin. There he learned to become a natura ...more
Ian Pindar
I loved this book. It is in my top ten, I recently wrote a review for Oscar and Lucinda, and for me this is much better. I concede that it could well be the fact I have studied Darwin in detail at university and school, and this included aspects and knowledge I did not know. I felt I was on the Beagle and looking at the voyage from a different POV. We are rarely given the POV of anyone except Darwin and Fitzroy (The Captain), but we see the world through Syms Covington's eyes, and what a view it ...more
Convington assisted Darwin on his historical voyage, but is often forgotten about today. The book jumps, sometimes awkwardly, between time periods, while Convington remembers his journey across the world. He struggles with the meaning of his life. He wonders whether all of the effort and work he did was worth it since Darwin gave him no credit in his book. He also struggles with his relationship to God since participating in this world altering publication, that many would say suggests there was ...more
Mr. Darwin's Shooter is a surprisingly good book. The story centers around the story of Syms Covington a young boy bound to become the assistant to Charles Darwin. The book covers the life of Covington from a young boy to his old age. The author set up the book in an interesting manner beginning with Syms as a mysterious grumpy old man and flashes back to his younger years. This method develops the character in an interesting fashion. Young and old Covington are two very different people but as ...more
I found the writing style to be rather convoluted and sometimes difficult to follow, compounded by sections jumping back and forth between time periods. An interesting character study of an entirely obscure historical figure - a man named Covington who rates one or two mentions in Darwin's journals. Covington found a way out of a future in his father's slaughterhouse with a "missionary marine" group, and maintains a strong devout streak. He eventually ends up as Darwin's manservant/specimen coll ...more
Mr. Darwin’s Shooter by Ronald McDonald tells the story of Syms Covington, who was Charles Darwin’s forgotten assistant during Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle. Throughout the novel, the characters develop and evolve, and we get an inside look at what it really meant to be a servant. Covington starts out as a religious man, but during the voyage, he starts relying less on his faith and more on science. At the end of the novel, he struggles to find the balance between the two. This novel switche ...more
Deb Potter
I still think of this book - I read it several years ago. The main character is a man - we follow him from young to old - who is on board with Darwin. This man has been brought up a christian - but he has moved from one faith to another and been influenced by different strands of christianity. Through Darwin and their shared journey he sees the evidence of evolution and grapples with his own faith. That is the deeper part of the book but its also a detailed and interesting tale of a 19th century ...more
A fascinating fictionalized exploration of the impact of Darwin's emerging theory on his real-life servant/assistant, Syms Covington. The book cleverly intertwines Covington's early life story - from child of a horse butcher to boy-sailor to the voyage of the Beagle - with the concerns of his later years as a successful immigrant in Australia: a family, a complex friendship and business partnership with the neighboring doctor who saved his life, and the tortuous whirlwind of emotions associated ...more
Andrea Fietsam
Mr. Darwin’s Shooter shows Darwin’s sciences in a way that no one else would have thought of. Syms Covington is the forgotten assistant of Charles Darwin, and this story is from his view of Mr. Darwin’s work. The book is split up into past and present day sections. In the past, Covington is young and naïve, but in the present, he is unsure if he is proud of what he did in his past. The second story in the novel is about Covington and his doctor in his late life. This story explains in more detai ...more
Diana Sandberg
Well….ok. I kind of like the "fictionalized history" genre that seems to have taken off in the last little while, as long as the authors don't get irritatingly distant from what could have happened. McDonald doesn't, so far as I am capable of judging, in this one, but it still doesn't really please. It tells of a man who was Charles Darwin's servant on board the Beagle and for a few years after; not a great deal is known of the real man, other than a few glancing references in Darwin's correspon ...more
Mr. Darwin's Shooter is a unique novel that takes you through time, as you follow the life of Syms Covington. Reading this novel can be frustrating at times, as it switches between time periods (Syms as a boy, Darwin's assistant, and growing older). I enjoyed seeing things from the perspective of someone who was important to history, but whose story was never told. Syms served as the faithful sidekick to Charles Darwin, as he collected information to support his theory of evolution. This novel a ...more
Kara Hoganson
This book follows the life of Darwin's unlikely assistant, Covington. I enjoyed he aspect of getting to learn about an important character in the development of modern scientific opinion who is often overlooked, but at times it was a difficult read with the author abruptly changing from time period to time period with little reason or warning. However, the book is still enjoyable for history buffs and non-history buffs alike, as the novel pursues the develop of Syms Covington as a person and his ...more
Shala Howell
Ok, I didn't finish this book. I read valiantly through page 141, waiting for it to deliver on what promised to be an interesting premise: The internal conflict of a fundamentalist who participated in the research behind the Origin of the Species by shooting & capturing the animals for Darwin, so he could write this book which will shake up Christian thought. Fascinating, right? Well, by page 141 I was still waiting for the good part. Fans of Melville may find this book more interesting than ...more
A detailed, but somewhat slow account of the life of Syms Covington, the British sailor who helped Darwin with the procurement of specimens on the Beagle's 5-year trip. The novel covers two time periods in Covington's life - his early life including work with Darwin, and toward the end of his life in 1860 when he was awaiting his copy of The Origin of Species. He was conflicted by the theories in the book; as a God-fearing Christian, he was taught (and still believed) that God created all creatu ...more
Shannon Hampton
I am not sure, I thought it was interesting, but a bit preachy, and yet also not... read it...
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