The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am


The Discovery of Jeanne Baret
by Glynis Ridley(read by Gregg Savage)
Audible (audio book)

How unfortunate that any of Jeanne Baret's life had to be imagined. A 'herbwoman' with extensive botanical knowledge, she was apparently the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, although she achieved that distinction disguised as a man. When Louis-Antoine de Bougainville set off in 1766 to sail around the world, women were not allowed on French ships, so the 26-year-old Baret bandaged her bosom with strips of linen and boarded as the assistant of the naturalist Philibert Commerson, a widower who was also her lover and student when it came to plants. Although she fooled the crew, she was exposed by Tahitians when the ship landed on the island, and either raped or humiliatingly examined on New Ireland (northeast of Papua New Guinea). Baret - to whom Professor Glynis Ridley attributes the discovery of the colourful bougainvillea - left no account of her adventures, which is why the author had to speculate based on Commerson's diary and seven other journals. Gregg Savage does a wonderful job narrating and handles the many French names well.