I was prepared to really like this book. It is centered on Darwin's study of barnacles and their contribution to his evolutionary thinking. In some ways the author sort of got there, but along the way she often got off the track and uses some strange analogies in the process. There were several typos that were disturbing. Perhaps the worst is that we are told on page 21 that the marine segmented worm Aphrodita aculeata has stinging hairs (it does not! - see Sue Hubbell's excellent book "Waiting for Aphrodite"), and that it is parasitic (it is a carnivore, as Hubbell also noted). In stating that Aphrodita has stinging hairs Rebecca Stott was repeating an error that has come down to us through a book published in 1558 by Rondelet! Also "aculeata" does not mean, "stinging", but spiny! One would think that by now this misinformation would not continue to be repeated. However, the main problem is that the author rambles a bit too much and covers a lot of ground not pertinent to the subject. In fact she covers a lot of the ground in regard to Darwin's personal problems that is better explored in several other recent books. This is not a fatal flaw, but the book would have been more original if the focus had been kept on the barnacles rather than on background material that nearly every biographer of Darwin has investigated. As for the book being "lavishly illustrated," I am wondering what the writers of the dust jacket blurb meant! I would not have described it in that manner at all! Maybe "adequately illustrated" would have been better!
This book is worth reading and does give us some of the details left out of other books on Darwin, but the author has not answered the questions about Darwin's barnacles I would have liked to have had answered.