The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley review

Title: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, The High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe.
Author: Glynis Ridley
Publisher: Broadway Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 28, 2011
Paperback, 291 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-46353-1
Genre: Biography

In The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, Glynis Ridley unravels the conflicting accounts recorded by Baret’s crewmates to piece together the real story: how Baret’s identity was in fact widely suspected within just a couple of weeks of embarking, and the painful consequences of those suspicions; the newly discovered notebook, written in Baret’s own hand, that proves her scientific acumen; and the thousands of specimens she collected, most famously the showy vine bougainvillea.

My thoughts:
If anyone asked me a month ago what I thought about Jeanne Baret, I would not have known who they were talking about. However after reading The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley I can now say that Jeanne Baret was quite a woman. Jeanne lived in the 1700's. This time in history was not kind to women. Woman were thought of as feeble, unintelligent and impassioned. Jeanne Baret was none of these things. She grew up and lived in France until she met Philibert Commerson and became not only his lover but also his assistant on an expedition to take her across the globe. Commerson was a botanist who was enamored with Baret and her knowledge of plants. When King Louis XV ordered an expedition around the world to gather information about medicinal plants and information that would help France become the leading expert in these areas, he appointed Commerson the prestigious position of working on this voyage. 
Commerson needed someone knowledgeable and hard working to assist him on this journey. None other could compare to Baret. They devised a plan so that Baret could accompany him on this trip. Baret disguised herself as a man. She took on the arduous task without complaint. She worked harder than most men ever do. Her job was back breaking in miserable conditions. She tried very hard to hide the fact that she was a woman however she didn't fool everyone and because of that she faced dire consequences. 
The Discovery of Jeanne Baret is a fantastic read. I don't have a particular love for botany but I love discovering historical gems. Glynis Ridley did a fantastic job with uncovering the mystery of Jeanne Baret. She also gives  historical background information and explains as to why something is a big deal or what it means for that period of time. This is important because today we don't face the same restricting conventions that people faced in the past. This book is interesting from cover to cover. It's well written and very informative. I'm so glad I had an opportunity to read this novel. If you love history, botany or love reading about people who defy conventions this is a great book to read. 

My rating:
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*I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes only. This in no way influenced my opinion.


  1. It's always so awesome to find a book that tells you about something or someone that you would have liked to know about before. This one looks fabulous! Thanks for the review!

  2. Thanks Julie!
    This book was a really great read.


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