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The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  402 ratings  ·  123 reviews
The story of a fascinating beacon in women's history, an ordinary woman who overcame tradition and hostility to rise from meager origins to unique fame In 1765, eminent botanist Philibert Commerson was appointed official naturalist to a grand new expedition: the first French circumnavigation of the world. Desperate not to be left behind, Jeanne Baret - Commerson's young mi ...more
Kindle Edition, 436 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by 4th Estate (first published December 28th 2010)
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Jenny Brown
Jan 10, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is fiction, not history. Ridley found an intriguing couple of paragraphs about a woman who disguised herself as a man and voyaged around the world, and then, lacking any other primary source material--no word of Barets has survived--Ridley goes on to invent an entire book's worth of narrative, none of it grounded in primary sources.

The book is full of carefully painted scenes describing what Ridley imagines might have happened, down to which berry her subject picked on the shores of Tierra
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Shortly after I began this book I was giving it a 2- it was okay. Then a 3-- then a 4, and by the end I knew it was nothing short of amazing - a 5 ! The story as it was told by Glynis Ridley is a 5 star!

My problem, initially, was I found myself continually questioning the author--how could she possibly know this- how could she infer that. Certainly I felt the author was biased, and I expected to be engulfed in some sort of feminist manifesto about a young herb woman who went to sea as a slave fo
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, read-in-2011
This is certainly an intriguing story. Jeanne Baret was a French peasant herb woman who was also the work collaborator and mistress of botanist Philibert Commerson. In 1765 she disguised herself as a man and set sail with Commerson on an expedition to circumnavigate the globe. The problem with the book is that there is only a tiny amount of real information about these people and their motivations and what really went on onboard the ship. Unfortunately that doesn't stop Ridley from speculating b ...more
Nov 18, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Robinson
Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeanne Baret was an unusual woman, not just by 18th century standards, but for any time on earth. Disguising herself as a man for a 3 year trip around the world in a ship roughly the size of a big townhouse, packed to the gunwales with male sailors, servants and officers was an act of bravery or magical thinking or extreme stupidity. We don't know what was in her mind because there are no accounts of her adventure written by her. She's been erased from history. Until this book. Part historical a ...more
This was an interesting read, due to the scarcity of source material there's a fair amount of extrapolation. That combined with the storytelling format give this more of an adventure fiction feel. We do have enough of a paper trail to verify that Baret is most probably the first women to sail around the world, between the various accounts and the French government granting her a pension for her achievements.

It's an ugly tale, she was a talented herbalist, and yet she was treated like a beast of
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If anyone asked me a month ago what I thought about Jeanne Baret, I would not have known who they were talking about. However after reading The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley I can now say that Jeanne Baret was quite a woman. Jeanne lived in the 1700's. This time in history was not kind to women. Woman were thought of as feeble, unintelligent and impassioned. Jeanne Baret was none of these things. She grew up and lived in France until she met Philibert Commerson and became not only h ...more
Connie G
Jeanne Baret pretended to be a young man to work as an assistant to botanist Philibert Commerson on a voyage around the world in 1765. Dressed in men's clothes, she spent over two years as the only woman on a French ship. The French government was especially interested in plants that were spices or had medicinal value. During the sea voyage, Baret did much of the collecting of the specimens since Commerson was suffering from a leg injury.

Jeanne Baret was a French peasant herb woman when she met
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enter a lot of giveaways for a lot of different books, but this one, which I won from Linda at Silly Little Mischief is one that I think is the "best" win for me. It isn't necessary my favorite our of all the books I won. But when you compare the likelihood of me discovering it on my own with how much I enjoyed it, the payoff is high.

The book is a biographer of Jeanne Baret, a female botanist who dressed as a man, and without much of the world's knowledge became the first woman to circumvent t
I felt like I was seeing and experiencing the world through Jeanne Baret's eyes in this completely engaging narrative of the first woman to travel around the world at a time when women were not even supposed to be *allowed* on ships. This peasant herb woman, Jeanne, passed herself off as the male assistant to a French botanist tasked with identifying and collecting flora & fauna on a planned voyage of discovery and exploration around the world. This deception was necessary because naval rules an ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Maybe it is because I now have many wonderful followers of my blog or maybe it is because so many wonderful fellow bloggers leave wonderful comments on my blog posts…well, honestly, I don’t know why, but for some reason I now receive many, many offers of free books to be reviewed. And now, unlike in the past, many, many of these many, many offers of free books are books that are fabulous. And unknown.

My favorite kinds of reads. Small, unknown treasures.

This book is one of those small, unknown t
Just A. Bean
Saw this one in Science News and thought I might like it. But then when I got it Dad snaked it, and took forever to read it, and I just got it back last week. It's a non fiction book detailing the life of a French peasant who was, astonishingly, the first woman known to circumnavigate the world. Dad loved it, but I bailed about half way through. The author just couldn't resist editorialising and speculating. I understand that she had extremely limited sources, especially once they left France: s ...more
Mara Gaulzetti

I loved reading about this woman, who was the first to circumnavigate the globe. Her life was simply amazing, and although parts of it are so tragically sad, it seems she had a happy ending. The fact that her story is known at all is quite miraculous as there are so few primary sources related to her life. I wish there were more and that the reader could really get to know this amazing woman!

The author does a good job of piecing together scant information to form this story. Some of her informat
Kate  K. F.
When I began this book, I was quickly drawn in by the story of Jeanne Baret who was an herbwoman in France who circumnavigated the globe with Bouganvillea's expedition. The writing is well researched and Ridley knows how to make the past approachable, yet I finished this book feeling unsure. My uncertainty is due to how Ridley presents the discovery of Baret's sex during the journey as she puts a modern reading of the historical sources. This can be important but as most of the book is spent exp ...more
While Jeanne Baret is a fascinating subject and admirable heroine for any woman, the execution of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe suffers as Glynis Ridley interjects too much supposition for a woman who left virtually no paper trail. No one could possibly know her thoughts or her feelings, and yet that is precisely how Ms. Ridley fills the pages. There is a bit too much reading between the lines on firsthand accoun ...more
Fascinating and dramatic narrative history of the first French-sponsored circumnavigation of the globe, of which 1 person was a woman--Jeanne Baret--disguised as a man. I wish I could say hilarious hijinks ensue, but there is nothing hilarious about them. The quest for botanical treasures and new land for the French empire have remained to Western history, but Glynis Ridley does a phenomenal job in recreating this woman amongst "civilized" men and "noble" savages, though much of it is psychologi ...more
Bit of a shame to give this book only 3 stars as it isn't that bad. I learned a lot. It's wonderfully peppered with historical facts and I liked that about it, and it was written just fine. My major issue with it was the accuracy. It had the feel of a book where the author only had limited research material to go off and therefore imagined, speculated and surmised the rest. She took small snippets of information and built whole fabricated stories around them.
The book was plied with guess work a
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is "real" nonfiction, and so was rather... dry... compared to the last few creative-fiction-slash-fiction-about-real-people books I've read.
It was a very well-researched book about a woman who performed an admirable feat (especially back then, but even these days), a woman who has mostly been lost to history but who shouldn't have been. I learned a lot, but it definitely didn't have the emotional draw of Under the Wide and Starry Sky or Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably because I'm more into gardening, the thoughts from this book recently popped into my mind. Jeanne Baret is a woman botanist and made many scientific contributions to many places on her voyage. Super interesting read.
The title of this book has a double meaning and Jeanne Baret has an intriguing story. The "discovery" could refer to her discovery of the bougainvillea plant (among many others) or it could mean the "discovery" that she was a woman hiding her identity as a woman on the expedition of Louis-Antoine de Bougainvillea in the 1800s.

The short story: Baret signed on to the Bougainvillea expedition in 1766 as the "assistant" to the expedition's naturalist Philibert de Commerson. During the voyage, she d
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book seems like it would have much to recommend it: a woman disguised as a man on a sailing vessel, the 18th century age of exploration, pre-Revolution life in Paris. And yet, I crawled through this book. It’s been a week and I made it only halfway through. The book is 250 pages long. I did not finish. I learned a few things though. Being a woman disguised as a man on a ship full of men on a three-year circumnavigation of the globe sucks. Being on a ship during this time sucks. Being a poor ...more
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Eh, it was OK. There was not nearly enough botanical discussion for me. Also, the actual information about Jeanne Baret is rather slim so there much more information about the trip around the world than Baret herself. The author writes that there are no known journals from Baret and her lover, Commerson, never mentioned her in his writing. However, the author presents a lot of information about how Jeanne felt, what she did, and why she did things that are completely speculative but not necessar ...more
Diane Larson
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Allison Roy
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I felt this book left me with nearly equal feelings of enjoyment and irritation. It is not the author’s fault that there is just not that much information available. That she uses a combination of analysis and imagination to try to fill in the gaps is understandable, but at times she really unleashes the imagination to a disturbing extent. At a time where spelling of everything is consistently variable, she speculates that two r’s In the main character’s name is hard evidence of ptsd due to gang ...more
Chris Fellows
This was a fascinating story, but I began to be deeply uneasy about the time the author asserts that Quiros landed near Darwin. I finished with no very great degree of confidence in any of the facts recounted in this book. It is "A Story of Science" insofar as it is an illustration of Mark Twain's quote: "There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."
The author makes very serious accusations on very tenuous
Emily Taylor
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The verdict is still out about whether this book can be taken as more fact or fiction, but quite honestly, I don't care. While there are minimal facts to corroborate what all is stated in this book, the fact still remains that this was an exceptional woman. I read this book wanting to see exploration from any other point of view that wasn't a European white male and that's exactly what I got from this book. If you're looking for facts and zero speculation, then this won't make the list for you. ...more
Lucy Bellwood
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliantly researched and deeply moving account of Jeanne Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe as the disguised assistant to a naturalist on a French voyage. This book gave me everything I could’ve possibly wanted: disguise and intrigue, first-hand accounts of life at sea in the 1700s, naturalists’ finds from around the world, and a stunning account of one woman’s bravery and determination at a time when her sex and class would have otherwise bound her to a life of serfdom. High ...more
Sukey Waldenberger
A fascinating story of a female explorer who deserves far more credit than she has received. While I take exception with some of the authors conclusions (she will drive on a possibility and then treat it as fact), there is no doubt that Jeanne Baret was an extraordinary woman who survived a an unimaginable ordeal using her strength and her intelligence, at a time when women were rarely credit with either.
Patricia Hilliard
This book was interesting to me because I am fascinated by plants and botany, but it also includes traveling to new habitats and the cultural limitations women were subjected to in the 1700s making me appreciate living in modern times.
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From Book Cover:
Glynis Ridley is the author of Clara's Grand Tour: Travels with a Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century Europe, which won the Institute of Historical Research (University of London) Prize. A British citizen, she is now a professor of English at the University of Louisville.

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