Teresa R. (Fort Collins, CO)
A skillfully told tale
Academic historian Glynis Ridley did formidable research on the state of scientific inquiry and social class in 18th century France for this book. Yet her account of the overlooked heroism and privations suffered by Jeanne Baret is laid out in a lively and readable narrative—by turns fascinating and appalling. Meticulously citing historical records, Ridley bears witness to Baret's courage and accomplishment despite years of brutish living conditions and physical and psychological assaults, not to mention the loutish behavior she bore from her lover, Philibert Commerson, the botanist whose career she helped advance and for whom she embarked on the round-the-world voyage.
Reading this book in the comfort of an easy chair brings awareness of the ease and privileges enjoyed by Western women of today. In solidarity with Ms. Baret, one should consider reading the book in low candlelight, perched on one’s haunches in a bare, drafty room. Either way it’s compelling and engrossing non-fiction.
Katherine Y. (Albuquerque, NM)
Interesting book, but not really a biography
Glynis Ridley did an excellent job with researching the time period and the history of botany, so if those topics interest you then this would be a good book for you. But if you are looking for a biography of a woman adventurer breaking out of the roles prescribed for women at the time, this book doesn't really deliver because so little is known about Jeanne Baret. The book is well written and so held my attention even though botany is not a a particular interest of mine.
Susan R. (Dublin, NH)
The Discovery of a Soporific
Jeanne Baret's is a story of pioneering, romance, intrigue, adventure and science. It deserves fleshed out characters and settings. This book doesn't deliver.
At a time when people of her class seldom ventured farther than their feet could carry them in a day, Jeanne Baret not only left home, she was the first woman to sail around the world. When the only "profession" open to woman was the oldest one, she had a working knowledge of plants in the wild and how they could be used. She didn't travel in relative luxury as the wife of an expedition captain, but as the strong and knowledgeable assistant to the trip's botanist--disguised as a man.
PBS, please do your thing.
Suri F. (Durham, NC)
Great Subject, Academic Execution
I enjoyed this book very much for what it was--an academic historian's attempt to give readers insight into Eighteenth Century science. I do feel that since so little is known about Baret herself, the author might have taken more risks in making her come alive, even if the effort moved the book more into creative non-fiction. In any event, I found the tale exciting and inspiring.
Tamara S. (Wenatchee, WA)
I couldnt finish this book, I lost interest, I felt like I was reading a highschool textbook.
Carolyn S. (Decatur, GA)
The Discovery of Jeanne Baret Glynis Ridley
Ridley’s book about Jeanne Baret, woman herbalist, is very well researched and contains very interesting material about the day and the history of the period. I think this historical background is the strong point of the book and as interesting as the story of the young woman herself.
For a historical work, with only the facts to work with, the blanks are filled with conjecture backed up with diligent research, almost taking away from the story of Jeanne who remains a bit fuzzy with some of the other characters taking over due to the fact that no personal diaries were found for Jeanne.
Rebecca G. (havertown, pa)
Great Historical Account
It wouldn't be correct to call Glynis Ridley's account of the1766 French expedition of the ships Etoile and Boudeuse a biography of Jeanne Baret. I wanted to read this book because I am fascinated by the lives of unique and unknown historical figures. It isn't what I expected; in fact, it is less biographical in relation to Baret than her mentor, Philibert Commerson. This is not a fault of the author; there is very little known about Baret. It is, however, a well researched account of the voyage with extensive botanical records, descriptions of fauna and flora of the regions encountered during the voyage, geography of places such as the Magellan Strait, and a detailed history of Paris and other regions important to the characters involved in this story. This book will be of interest to history buffs and those interested in botany and geography. To call it a biography of Jeanne Baret, however, is a little misleading.