Emma Darwin had published two acclaimed works of historical fiction when she set out to write a novel about her extraordinarily eminent family, among them her great-great-grandfather Charles. The result was creative disaster, an epic writerly tangle that she chronicles in her new memoir, This is Not a Book about Charles Darwin.
In the first episode of a brand new series of the History Workshop Podcast, listen to Emma Darwin talk to Marybeth Hamilton about historical fiction and the perils of family story.
Produced by Marybeth Hamilton
- Jenny Uglow’s The Lunar Men: the friends who made the future is published by Faber.
- Emma sets out more details on the Darwin family tree on her website.
- The geneticist Adam Rutherford reflected on Darwin’s legacy in 2009, the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, in the Guardian, 5 January 2009.
- More on Gwen Raverat (1885-1957), including examples of her engravings, can be found here. Her memoir Period Piece is published by Faber.
- The Darwin Correspondence Project is based at the University of Cambridge.
- Emma mentions two wonderfully innovative works of historical fiction: Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.
- For more on “world building” in fiction, start here or here.
- John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, was first published in 1984.
- Margaret Atwood’s 1996 lecture “In Search of Alias Grace: on writing Canadian historical fiction” was published in 1998 as part of an American Historical Review forum on Histories and Historical Fiction. Those with access to JSTOR can find it here.
- George Stocking’s essay “Books unwritten, turning points unmarked: Notes toward an anti-history of anthropology” can be found in his 2001 collection Delimiting Anthropology: Occasional Essays and Reflections.
- Emma mentions two much-praised recent works of creative non-fiction: Edmund deWaal‘s The Hare With the Amber Eyes and Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk.
- Emma gives her “twenty top tips for academic writing” on her blog. Information on the Royal Literary Fund’s Fellowship Scheme is available here.
- Emma quotes from Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.