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The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

by Glynis Ridley

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

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Pamela B. (Madison, WI) (02/08/11)

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley
The book was not what I expected. I was expecting more of a "story", but the book is more of a history text. The historical information was interesting and helped explain why some of the events would have been perceived differently in the historic context. The information was hard to get through and I felt the what I wanted to know (the story of the first woman to sail around the world) got bogged down in too many details.
Robert C. (Fremont, CA) (02/03/11)

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret
Jeanne Baret, was a French peasant during the Age of Enlightenment. As a herb woman she had great knowledge of plants and began an association with the noted botanist, Philibert Commerson, and when he joins an expedition to circumnavigate the globe, she accompanies him, but disguised as a young man since women were considered bad luck on French ships. The author's research is meticulous, and so the book reads like an academic thesis. While there are some documents relating to the voyage, including the captain's log, many parts of Jeanne's life are undocumented, so there is a lot of 'might have', 'could have', 'must have'. Fictionalized, this could be a great film, but here it is somewhat dead in the water.
The published edition includes some black & white photos, but no map. I would have found a map most helpful, especially when they are navigating the Straits of Magellan.
Kat F. (Palatine, IL) (02/01/11)

A good textbook
I looked forward to receiving this book, as it seemed a good start to expanding my non-fiction reading list. I'm sorry to say I was disappointed. Although well research and well written, unfortunately it was very dry reading and had little to do with the life of Jeanne Baret. I understand this is due the lack of historical information about her specifically and women of that time in general, but I think it would have made a much better book if the author had "expanded" on the facts available and turned the book into a work of fiction based on true events.
Marion T. (Palatine, IL) (01/27/11)

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret
After reading the introduction to this book, I was very excited to start the read. However, the book started to read like a thesis That being said, there is a lot of information about the world as it was during this time. Subjects that I had very little information, but enjoyed finding out about. The author certainly did the research required to make it a complete account. I would have liked to know more about Jeanne Baret as a person since she reads more like a one dimensional character than the courageous person that she was. Understandably the author could not do that since it is stated that there is very little truly known about her other than what is stated. Possibly written as a historic fiction would make a wonderful movie.

Would have like to have a readily available map of the time to trace the journey.

[Editor's Note: Marion was reading an 'advanced readers copy' of this book, printed some months before the final copies - it is quite common that elements such as maps and photos are not included in the advanced copies but are included in the finished version.]
Laura A. (Jeremiah, KY) (01/26/11)

OK but nothing exciting.
I found the book "The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley" disappointing. I had expected it to me more interesting that it was. The textbook writing style did little to draw the reader in. I think Jeanne Baret was probably a very interesting person and wish that her story had been told in a way that was as well. I would not recommend this to others to read.
Janice H. (Savage, Minnesota) (01/22/11)

An Awesome Journey
‘The Discovery of Jeanne Baret’ documents the story of a French woman who boards a ship as a man in the 16th century to travel around the world in three years. The author presents theory after theory of why this woman among all of theses men would not be safe on such a trip. Hardships she would endure ranged from possible gang rape if discovered by the 117 men on board to loneliness, starvation, and endless work hours. Only her employer (a scientist) knew of her true identity and he kept it a secret from all. Although rumors were spread early in the expedition, they remained only rumors for most of the journey. The author obtained my interest with the theory that a person” irrespective of the hand dealt by fortune, can have as much curiosity about the world as another.” Jeanne Baret was born to poverty and was destined to live and die within 20 miles of her home. Then “when she was twenty-six years old she would be living in a fashionable Paris apartment, organizing papers and preparing natural specimens” for a botanist. I particularly enjoyed the description of Paris in 1764 with its castles and royal palaces and consumed by a thirst for knowledge and trade. However, I tired of the author’s desire to document and analyze accurately all events on the ship’s journey and characters and found it exhausting to sift though all the he said, and who’s log said what (with the captain’s log lost). But the description of the thousands of seal lions sunny on the rocks and the new plant discoveries throughout the journey made it worth reading this book to the end.
Jeanne M. (Vancouver, WA) (01/22/11)

Masquerade on the High Seas
I was hoping that this would be a first person historical novel, but was delighted to find that the third person historic revelations were fascinating and led to a more thorough expose' of the connections to the explorers and their travels and travails.

Jeanne Baret's disguise as a boy allows her to be an assistant to a botanist. In this role she collects and classifies plants a t a time when the system of classification was emerging.

This is a well researched account of the voyage and discoveries that occurred, told in a way that captures the reader.
Denice B. (Fort Bragg, CA) (01/15/11)

At Sea
I was so hopeful about this book, but having taken three weeks to wade through only 30 pages, I cannot continue reading it, especially with the mounting pile of bed-side books beckoning!

The author and her subject are admirable and each do an expert job in her field, but slogging through the material was too much work. I'll continue to open random pages over time, gleaning what I can in that way.

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