x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Enjoyable genealogical trip

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins examines his family tree in An Appetite for Wonder.

Dawkins expounds on the origins of his actual first name, Clinton, an homage to the maiden name of a great-great-great grandmother celebrated amongst the family line for eloping with Henry Dawkins. Though the anecdote is a brief one that gives way to a broader presentation on the couple’s less scandalous descendants, it foreshadows the many detours Richard takes on his journey from carefree childhood years spent bounding about colonial Africa to his epiphanies encountered studying in Oxford.

Even while breaking away from his own story, the little tributes to his ancestors – interspersed with some amusingly characteristic scientific hypotheses based on such mundane phenomena like a childhood dependency on comfort blankets – make for a solidly entertaining autobiography.

An Appetite for Wonder should sate Dawkins’ fans while also making an intriguing first impression on the new reader.

Noori Passela is a frequent contributor to The Review