Saturday, 20 September 2008
The Road to Lagoa Santa by Henrik Stangerup
This is a wonderful novel, following the struggles of Danish naturalist Dr P W Lund, in his attempts to make sense of the bones he is finding in caves in Brazil. It's the middle of the 19th century, a time when Darwin is working on his theories of evolution but when the general culture of religion means that most scientists (including Lund) struggle to interpret their findings in terms of creationism. The novel is wonderfully written (and translated beautifully too, by Barbara Bluestone) and is sharp and immediate, keeping the reader totally engrossed in the excitement of scientific discovery, the tribulations of scientific rivalry and the health difficulties that Lund faced. It is a book with a wonderful sense of place too, the Amazon rainforest, the endless plains, the claustraphobic caves, the endless lines of ants are all evoked very vividly.