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Mr Darwin's Shooter

by Roger McDonald
New York: Penguin, 1998. 384 pages.

In Mr Darwin's Shooter, Roger McDonald — one of Australia's most acclaimed novelists — tells the story of Syms Covington, the sixteen-year-old sailor, fiddler, and odd-job man on the Beagle who became Darwin's full-time assistant, helping him collect and preserve the specimens on which the theory of evolution was based. Much later, living in rural Australia, Covington is awaiting the publication of the Origin of Species, dreading its implications for his devout religious faith but also wondering what of him will be reflected in Darwin's work. The reviewer for The New York Times described Mr Darwin's Shooter as "[a] high-spirited, adventuresome, idiosyncratic ramble through the history of science."