The Book Show

Fossils, Training Goshawks and an Afrikaner Scientologist named Jaco

Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind by Donald Johanson and Maitland A. Edey

"The story of human evolution - how ape like animals living millions of years ago changed into the human beings of today - is one of the great scientific epics of all time. But, like the sagas of the ancients, the details of the hominid odyssey have tended to vary with the teller. During the past 20 years, and especially during the past 10, significant rewritings have appeared; unfortunately for anyone seeking a clear interpretation of human evolution, most have been based as much on changing opinion and ideology as on new evidence.

''Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind'' is, therefore, a welcome and needed corrective."

H is for Hawk by Helen Mcdonald

'This book is a soaring triumph. It is a joy to follow Mabel and Macdonald’s flight out of such disconsolate scenes as one settles into a new roost and the other gradually comes to realise that “hands are for other human hands to hold. They should not be reserved exclusively as perches for hawks.”'

  • H is for Hawk by Helen Mcdonald, review: 'a soaring triumph' in The Telegraph

Into the Past: A Memoir by Phillip Tobias

'The main body of Tobias’ memoir covers only the first 40 years of his life (he was 87 when he died) and is a careful mixture of the personal, the political and the scientific. He tells delightful stories.

Throughout his memoir, Tobias refers to the ongoing questions that need to be addressed by scientific communities as well as society in general: the question of ethics in science; science and religion; the pursuit of truth no matter what... He is clear that science without ethics is unacceptable. The science-religion question is one he claims to have struggled with all his life.'

  • _Review: Into the Past (Memorial Edition) _by Sue Townsend in Tonight

Up Against The Night by Justin Cartwright

"Cartwright is “one of the finest novelists currently at work”, but also, rather stingingly, his recurring schema and structures have been catalogued: a male protagonist from a moneyed trade drawn to a moment from history; women troubles; generational tensions; and a grand gesture to bring all these elements into sharp relief.

In Up Against the Night, Cartwright follows this blueprint to the letter, with Frank McAllister playing the wealthy narrator; the massacre of Boer leader Piet Retief and his men in 1838 providing the historical backdrop; an ex-wife and Swedish girlfriend adding the sexual frisson; a daughter, Lucinda, just out of rehab, and a young cousin, Jaco, enmeshed with Scientology; and a holiday to the place of Frank’s birth, South Africa, as the cauldron in which to throw the participants."

  • Up Against the Night review by Stuart Evers in The Guardian

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