Mr Darwin’s Gardener is not, as one might imagine, written somewhere safely in a rural English county. It is instead a translation from Finnish. A good translation as it happens, but not what I expected from the title.
Also I didn’t really think the link to Darwin was needed at all. We never see him, he is just a device to explain Thomas’s atheism, which seemed unnecessary. In fact, given that this novel is trying to explore the beginnings of the decline of Christianity in rural England, it almost weakened the premise.
As a small exploration of human nature, it works perfectly. Firstly we see the ability of community and gossips to image the worst, and to react in a mob-like manner. But then people work out their own way to succeed despite this backdrop, and in some ways the community ties provide strength to those within it, and consider Darwin’s household part of their own.
Have you recently read something that didn’t turn out to be what you expected?