Galapagos: Through Writers' Eyes, By John Hickman

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The Independent Culture

Unpopulated until the 18th century, the islands described by Melville as "five and twenty heaps of cinders" may not seem a very fruitful prospect for literary inspiration, but former ambassador Hickman proves the reverse is true.

His stylish guided tour ranges from the Incas via Alexander Selkirk, the original Crusoe who had "much ado to bear up against Melancholy and Terror", to a creepy tale of real-life murder on Charles' Island in the Thirties, described as "worthy of Agatha Christie at the top of her form".

Though war, piracy, colonial jostling and tourism all left their mark, Darwin's awed appreciation of the archipelago's unique natural assets is the most significant and readable chapter.

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