Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mr. Darwin's Shooter, Take One

It was like the brain had several parts, each representing a faculty of thought, such as love, morality, veneration, greed, preferment, lasciviousness. Covington knew that his own head was a lumpy job. He knew which qualities gave him an itch in the belly, and which made him whistle with hope and pleasure when he woke in the morning and jumped to his duties after saying his prayers. Between the bumps on his head and the blood in his veins there was this third capacity making him glad. It was the spirit of the Lord, the joy of being alive. He would be robbed of his meaning without it.

Thanks to the limits of inter-library loans, at some point today I will have to sit and quaff down the remaining 135 pages of Roger McDonald's fine novel, Mr. Darwin's Shooter (A). I have savored it at a leisurely pace, which I think is how the book begs to be read. Unfortunately I have been too leisurely in my savoring and have exhausted my limit of renewals.

I could, and probably will, buy the book on-line, but I'm now thirsty for the conclusion. This isn't a narrative built on unforeseeable surprises. We meet two Covingtons as the book progresses: a young man taken up by “the spirit of the Lord” and eagerly exploring every pleasure in the wide natural world; and an older, bitter man hobbled with manifold injuries, the worst of which is inflicted on his consciousness. We know from the title some of what has taken place to bring about the latter. Covington is Mr. Darwin's shooter, and in the course of his assisting the young doctor in his efforts to establish the theory of natural selection will find himself bereft of the spirit of the Lord.

McDonald's historical fiction is lovingly detailed, but he imbues his protagonist with a ferocious energy and activity that carves tantalizing gaps in this tapestry. The full story is knit-together — re-knit, really — over the course of the novel. I don't expect it, but even if the final third of the novel were to fall flat, Mr. Darwin's Shooter would be a candidate for the most memorable novel read this year.

1 comment:

DarkoV said...

O.K., WP.

You've hooked me again especially with your closing phrase that The Shooter "..would be a candidate for the most memorable novel read this year."