Saturday, 13 February 2010

FINALLY Richard Dawkins

Yesterday I finally, finally finished a book I've been reading since I went to Germany in August. It is by Richard Dawkins, and is called 'The Ancestor's Tale: Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life'. Oh it is such a brilliant brilliant book. Here is his blurb because he says it better than I could ever paraphrase.

'The Ancestor's Tale is a pilgrimage: a journey of four billion years. We. modern human beings, are the pilgrims, and we are travelling back in time to seek out our ancestors. Simultaneously every living creature is setting off on its own journey with the same mission. Each pilgrim tells its tale along the way, and covers the processes involved in the unfolding of life on Earth.

Onwards we go, squeezing precariously through mass extinctions. Eventually we pass that fundamental turning point for life on earth, the combining of a single celled protozoan-to-be with a bacterium to form a cell with a nucleus. Once we have done so, all living things take the final strecth of the pilgrimage together to the origin of life'

I've never read a book that makes me actually gasp out loud in amazement, there are just so many things you could never imagine about life. Dawkins bases his pilgrimage on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, instead of the miller's tale there's the marsupial mole's tale, the barnacle's tale, the redwood's tale... He writes in such a beautiful, non-patronising way. It is science but not boring science. He even refers to The Subtle Knife, talks about the creatures that use seed pods for wheels, as a lovely aside.

I did get very bogged down near the end and strung it out for months - once it got to bacteria level I didn't understand very much. But still there were bits and wonderful pieces. The Ancestor's Tale is, I think, one of my all time best books I have ever read.

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