The Origin of Species

The Origin of Species

A Novel

Book - 2010 | Other Press ed.
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Winner of the 2008 Governor General's Award for Fiction

Montreal during the turbulent mid-1980s: Chernobyl has set Geiger counters thrumming across the globe, HIV/AIDS is cutting a deadly swath through the gay population worldwide, and locally, tempers are flaring over the recent codification of French as the official language of Quebec. Hiding out in a seedy apartment near campus, Alex Fratarcangeli ("Don't worry. . . . I can't even pronounce it myself"), an awkward, thirty-something grad student, is plagued by the sensation that his entire life is a fraud. Scarred by a distant father and a dangerous relationship with his ex Liz, and consumed by a floundering dissertation linking Darwin's theory of evolution with the history of human narrative, Alex has come to view love and other human emotions as "evolutionary surplus, haphazard neural responses that nature had latched onto for its own insidious purposes." When Alex receives a letter from Ingrid, the beautiful woman he knew years ago in Sweden, notifying him of the existence of his five-year-old son, he is gripped by a paralytic terror. Whenever Alex's thoughts grow darkest, he recalls Desmond, the British professor with dubious credentials whom he met years ago in the Galapagos. Treacherous and despicable, wearing his ignominy like his rumpled jacket, Desmond nonetheless caught Alex in his thrall and led him to some life-altering truths during their weeks exploring Darwin's islands together. It is only now that Alex can begin to comprehend these unlikely life lessons, and see a glimmer of hope shining through what he had thought was meaninglessness.
Publisher: New York : Other Press, 2010.
Edition: Other Press ed.
ISBN: 9781590513491
Branch Call Number: FIC RICCI
Characteristics: 472 p. ; 23 cm.


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Jul 22, 2012

Read April 2012

Nov 26, 2011

This book is highly disappointing. The main character is a loser and not very interesting. The story starts slowly, picks up speed and then craps out coming to an end not worthy of the reader.
The writing is good in places. The title is deceiving in that if if the main character and his behavior is the origin of the human race, it is a sad time.

Apr 14, 2011

This book is really hard to get into and drags on and on. Could not get past the first 20 pages.

Nov 24, 2010

I found that it dragged in places. It wasn't a bad book...but it wasn't the greatest I've read. It did get me thinking about the Galapagos Islands again though...and how much I'd love to visit them some day.

Jun 10, 2010

Check out other Governor General Literary Award winners at

Jan 12, 2010

This book drags on and is hard to get into. If you suffer through it does give you a lot to think about. It does inspire one to find out more about Darwin and evolution.

Jan 03, 2009

Giller prize longlister.

Presented this book at Oakville Bookers Brunch.


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