Review – Seven Daughters of Eve

Posted 15 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan SykesSeven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes

It’s been a while since this book was published, of course, and the science of investigating ancient mitochondrial DNA has been going from strength to strength, but this is still a good book on the background of that research, the importance of mitochondrial DNA, and the idea that we can trace our lineage back through the female line to just a few specific women. (Actually, this is very Europe-centric, a fact that becomes clear when you read the whole book: the seven ‘clan mothers’ mentioned are only the last common ancestors of European mitochondrial lines.)

Sykes writes clearly and well, and the only bit I wasn’t happy with as popular science writing is the little fake histories of the seven women. He tries to put flesh on the bones of what the women might have been like, the environment and social situations they would have encountered, but it’s really far too much like pure fiction for me. If he’d even included some more perhapses and maybes and alternative scenarios, I might have been more comfortable with it. As it is, it gives us a false idea that there were seven such knowable women.

Still, it’s fascinating stuff and I do love reading about this kind of genetic detective work.

Rating: 4/5 

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2 Responses to “Review – Seven Daughters of Eve”

  1. I felt the same too about the fictional reconstructions, they seemed to lean too much on the ‘pop’ end of the popular science spectrum and rather spoiled the exciting but factual exploration he’d followed up till then.

    And you’re right, more ‘perhaps’ and ‘possibly’ would have acknowledged that developments in genetic science would be so rapid, almost exponential, as to likely modify if not contradict some of his conclusions. But I’m glad I read it at the time, and am even tempted to dip into it again now.

    • Exactly! And yeah, I think it’s actually still worth it, because it was one of the first things which really showed the importance of mitochondrial DNA.

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