Interesting and well written. Filled with pertinent information, yet a bit long-winded at times.
The book is not merely a biography covering the lifeInteresting and well written. Filled with pertinent information, yet a bit long-winded at times.
The book is not merely a biography covering the life of one man, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). It starts with a description of the world he was born into - Prussia, Pre-Romanticism and the eminent philosophers, poets and writers of the time, i.e. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich von Schiller, to name but a few. Humboldt came to spend long hours with Goethe. These prominent thinkers influenced who he was to become. Their lives and the lives of others Humboldt associated with are discussed. Another two such men are Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. Humboldt’s theories, experiments, books, travels and companions are covered. The book does not conclude with his death. It continues, showing how he directly influenced others, in particular Charles Darwin, George Perkins Marsh, Ernst Haeckel and John Muir. It is through these men that ecology, conservation and preservation has become what it is today. Others are mentioned too. The book ends with the hope that we reclaim Humboldt as our hero or at least re-acknowledge the importance he has played in how we view nature. Humboldt's thoughts and writings lie at the beginning of a chain of men who have brought us to where we are today in the field of environmentalism.
How much do we learn about Humboldt’s personality? Well he never kept his mouth shut, and he was indefatigable. In a conversation you couldn't get a word in edgewise. Being with him must have been quite a strain. Whether he was homosexual or not is unclear. How he could have possibly had time for anything other than his artistic, philosophical and scientific pursuits is the prime question. He seems to have had neither the time nor the interest for a lover. He was a fervent abolitionist.
The audiobook narration is by David Drummond. I found it too fast, particularly in the beginning. There is just too much information to absorb. Later it gets easier. Some words are unclear. Narration does not influence my rating.
Rivers, minerals, lakes, parks and many, many places are named after this Prussian. I didn't even know who he was! It is stated that more places have been named after this man than anyone else. His views have shaped our very concept of how we see nature. He realized back in 1800 the interrelationship between all aspects of nature. He understood that nature is one unified whole, and that an interdisciplinary approach is essential to solving problems, one such being climate control. ...more
What makes this novel is the writing. The lines. What one character says to the other. The description of places. All this creates an atmosphere of aWhat makes this novel is the writing. The lines. What one character says to the other. The description of places. All this creates an atmosphere of a frightening time and place.
I dare you to read this novel and not empathize with the characters. You feel you are in an insane asylum in the early 1900s on the English Yorkshire moors. Frightening. Creepy. The building is astonishingly beautiful, but what happens there is horrific. Who really are the crazy ones? The inmates? The guards? The doctor? The superintendent? You must judge. There is another frightening element; in 1911 when the book takes place, eugenics was widely accepted. It was supported by the likes of British Home Secretary Winston Churchill, by George Bernard Shaw, by Josiah Wedgewood, by Major Leonard Darwin. That's right, the son of the English naturalist Charles Darwin! Churchill was in support of a bill to protect future generations through forced sterilization of the "feeble-minded". The Mental Deficiency Act was passed in 1913, but after alteration. Forced sterilizations were not allowed yet registration and segregation of the mentally defective were.
The asylum did exist, but the name is changed in the novel. The Menston Asylum opened in 1888 as the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. The author dedicated the book to her great-great-great grandfather, an inmate there. Later it became known as the High Royds Hospital. Take a peek: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Ro...
This is a gripping read, a frightening read because you come to understand how those who supported eugenics thought. It is frightening because you realize how ambiguous the definition of the insane is.
There are events in the novel that I wondered at. How could this have been allowed? Pure stupidity to allow a tug-of- war between attendants and patients. Isn't that going to lead to trouble? Isn't it insane to completely separate the women and the men and then one day a week allowing them to dance? Again you question, who really are the insane?!
The audiobook narration by Daniel Weyman was superb. Without a doubt five stars for the narration. You easily distinguish between the women and men. The Irish dialect is perfect You perceive when sanity becomes insanity. Perfect speed. ...more