March 30, 2007

The Seven Daughters of Eve: Review

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I'm not really a reader of non-fiction, I guess I like the world of pretend, but I watched Bryan Sykes on the Discovery Channel and put his book on my must read list. It took me years to finally get to it with the help of the TBR Challenge.

The Seven Daughters of Eve is Bryan Sykes account of his work with mitochondrial DNA. What is that? It's the DNA we carry within ourselves passed down thousands of years through our mothers. This DNA doesn't change with every generation; it stays constant and only occasionally (like once every 25,000 yrs) mutates. Through years of research, Brian and his colleagues mapped these mutations back to seven women whose descendants make up all of present day Europeans.

Although the book at times made my eyes glaze over, I knew enough about DNA to follow along. I guess I must have absorbed something in Grade 10 Honours Bio. Sykes is a reporter as well as a scientist so he writes in everyday language that is understandable to the layperson. It is also far from dry text book reading. His struggles to convince the scientific world that his discoveries are the real deal engages the reader. I felt frustrated and then happy for him through all his trials. Scientists can be as stubborn and narrow-mined as any of us. He pores emotion into the writing as well. The Cheddar Man and the Ice Man were real, living and feeling people and he lets us know that.

For me, the best part was his imagined portrait of the seven women. He gave them names to help modern readers relate to them. He even gave them each their own story. They lived at different times and places but shared similar struggles of raising children in a harsh world. I was there in the Ice Age fighting off animals with some of them and experiencing new discoveries with others. It probably never happened this way, but was interesting to read.

I also felt like the world is a smaller place. If a Bedouin nomad can be related to a school teacher in England, then why can't we all just get along?

At times I wanted to skip over the science to get to the exciting stuff but that's not a good idea. Pay attention to it or you'll be lost. I found the charts helpful.

This is probably a book for people like me. I like genetics and genealogy. That's what attracted me to this book. I like to look at people and wonder where they came from. I look at pictures of my family and try to figure out who I got what features from. I'd love to know which of the seven women I've descended from: Ursula, Velda, Tara, Xenia, Katrine, Helena or Jasmine. If you think like that, then maybe this book is for you.


3.5/5

2 comments :

  1. Sounds interesting to me. Great review, Chris!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really enjoyed this book. You did the book justice with your review!

    ReplyDelete

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