***Giveaway!*** ‘The Discovery of Jeanne Baret’

What do we ask of a book? That it offers escape? Adventure? Teaches us something new? Transports us to a different time and place? Makes us feel wonder at the human experience?

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe promises to do all those things.

I had never heard of Jeanne Baret, the daughter of illiterate French peasants who, in 1766, disguised herself as a teenage boy in order to join the first French expedition to sail around the world.

Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one. Jeanne Baret’s accomplishments have mostly been lost to history – until now. Author Glynis Ridley played historical detective and meticulously pieced together the intriguing story of this remarkable woman.

I’m pleased as punch to be able to give away TWO FREE COPIES of this book – consider it my little holiday present to two lucky readers.

Glynis is the tenth author I’ve invited onto the blog as part of my interview series. To mark this ‘decade’ of posts, I’ve asked Glynis herself to tell us a bit about her book. (And to be honest, I hardly knew where to begin with the questions! The role of women in 18th century France? The birth of botany? The tale of disguise?)

As this is a Paris blog, I’ve asked her to give us a taste of Jeanne Baret’s experience here. I have only just started diving into Glynis’ book, but can already tell it is expertly researched and an elegant narration of a truly fascinating subject. As you can see by her guest post below, she packs in a lot of information.

As for Jeanne Baret’s full story, you’ll just have to read the book. Details about the giveaway at the end of the post!

Glynis Ridley

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe by Glynis Ridley

In Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen makes the dead of night a magic portal back to Paris in the 1920s. But it’s an easy matter to get back to an even earlier Paris in broad daylight. This was especially useful to me in researching my book, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, about a Frenchwoman who disguised herself as a man to join the first French circumnavigation of the globe (1766-69).

Jeanne Baret spent September 1764 –December 1766, in an apartment on the rue des Boulangers (5ème) before leaving to board ship in Rochefort. The street was chosen by Baret’s lover, the botanist Philibert Commerson (for whom Baret worked on the voyage). Commerson wanted somewhere close to the Jardin des Plantes because he was obsessed with botany. (As a student in Montpellier, he’d been banned from the botanical garden there because he didn’t hesitate to dig up plants to add to his personal collection.)

I like to imagine what Baret and Commerson would say, strolling the avenues of what they knew as the Jardin du Roi, if you could tell them that the 6000 specimens they collected on the expedition finally found their way back to the French national herbarium in the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, whose buildings now frame the gardens.

Bearing in mind that one of the original purposes of the Jardin des Plantes was to succeed in growing commercially important exotic crops on French soil, it’s good to be able to head for a place dedicated to one of the most addictive of those crops – the first coffee shop to open in Paris – Le Procope – in the rue de l’Ancienne Comédie (6ème), founded in 1686. Linger over a single cup and tell yourself you’re only doing what Voltaire did. (Voltaire had offered Commerson the position of his private secretary in 1755, but Commerson preferred plant collecting to taking dictation.)

And assuming that a stroll in the gardens and a good cup of coffee has given you an appetite for some 18th century indoors culture, I think you can’t do better than the little-known Musée Nissim de Camondo (63, rue de Monceau, 8ème). The museum displays an exquisite collection of 18th century furniture, paintings and accessories, in period room settings that allow you to step back over 250 years, away from the tourist crowds at better known attractions. It’s just a pity you can’t relax in one of the chairs.

Thanks so much, Glynis! I have new addresses to visit in Paris!

To enter to win a copy of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret leave a comment below. Or, if you haven’t already subscribed to the blog via email, subscribing via email earns an entry, too. Be sure to enter by 9 PM Paris time on Sunday, December 18. I’ll contact winners individually. Good luck!

Glynis also welcomes readers on her Facebook page.

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34 Responses to “***Giveaway!*** ‘The Discovery of Jeanne Baret’”


  1. 1 brenda December 15, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Fascinating! I would be honored to win a copy of this book.

  2. 4 Mary Lonergan December 15, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Oh would LOVE to win a copy of this book!! I just recently joined a book club – am going to recommend it to the group~

    Thanks Sion!

  3. 6 Holly Le Du December 15, 2011 at 3:11 am

    J’adore lire les romans, surtout les bouquins ecrive par les femmes! And I am almost done with my current book so it would be Perfect timing:-) choissez-moi, svp!!

  4. 7 Bela Lumo December 15, 2011 at 4:45 am

    That sounds like a fascinating book! Will add it to my list even if I don’t win.

  5. 9 Lee I December 15, 2011 at 5:26 am

    It sounds wonderful, Sion and Glynis. I’d love to win!

  6. 10 Marije from Holland December 15, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Very nice post! This sounds like a fantastic read! It combines everything I am passionate about: non-fiction, Paris / France, Women, Travel, History. My kind of book! So I’d love to win as well, but will also definitely put it on my ‘to read’ list anyway.

  7. 11 Lupinssupins December 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    What a great book discovery! Thanks for this educational post, Sion. I would love to win a copy of Glynis’s book.

  8. 12 Mel December 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Sounds like a very captivating book. I hope i win!

  9. 13 Renee Barrere December 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Sion I would love to win a copy of this book since I now live in Paris and am trying to learn as much as I can about the French life and people as well :) Thank you for the giveaway opportunity!!!

  10. 15 Jonny December 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I would like to read it!

  11. 16 @yogasavestheday December 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I’m a francophile. I’m a feminist. And I love your blog! I’d love to win a copy of this lovely book. :)

  12. 18 Rita said December 15, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing this fascinating history and wonderful story! Every woman should be so adventurous as to breakaway from it all and forge a path ahead, leaving a blazing trail behind for all to see.

  13. 20 writenaked December 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I would love to win a copy, not only because this story is fascinating, but because in the universe’s bizarre randomness I believe I just learned this woman’s story on a Thanksgiving road trip through Arkansas last month. I passed this state park, which I believe is named after the same woman: http://www.petitjeanstatepark.com/

    • 21 paris (im)perfect December 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm

      OMG, that is *totally* her! (She called herself Jean rather than Jeanne for obvious reasons). A park in Arksansas? Now that is random!

      • 22 paris (im)perfect December 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

        UPDATE! Tara, this is so crazy, but that park is *not* named after Jeanne Baret. Glynis was intrigued by your comment and did a little digging – turns out there was *another* 18th century French woman who disguised herself as a man to follow her lover overseas! Jeez! Who knew this was a trend?

  14. 23 Buffy December 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Glynis Ridley’s book sounds so interesting. I love it when hear of a woman going against the norm in a man’s world. Of course society has changed quite a bit since those days, but as a Firefighter I can relate to making life work in that world. Have a wonderful weekend in Paris for yourself and those who can’t be there.

  15. 27 writingfeemail December 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I love hearing about a gutsy woman who defied the concepts of what she ‘should’ be during her era. Kudos for giving her the attention she deserves.

  16. 29 Glynis Ridley December 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    My thanks to everyone for their responses to Jeanne Baret’s story. I’m delighted to read them. Keep them coming. I’ve put a link up to Paris (im)perfect on my Facebook author page – please feel free to join the conversation there as well as here. My site has some color pictures from the book and discussion about everything from plant collecting to cross-dressing in the age of sail! Also links to interviews and slide shows. My special thanks to Sion for helping Jeanne Baret become known to more people.

  17. 31 Stefanie December 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Hi,
    the matter of the book seems to be of pure inspiration.
    At the moment I´m going through very changing times, so I search here and there for values and inner focuses that give me direction and guidance. Maybe Jeanne Baret with her courageous way to live the life she wanted would hold some for me?
    Would be very excited to get to know the book.
    By the way, your blog, Sion, is inspiring me with every post again. Thanks so much, for letting us take part to your thoughts, your feelings, findings and discoveries.
    Merci, Stefanie

  18. 33 Donna Pointer December 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I only just not received this email. I hope I am not too late to enter my name for consideration. This book sounds really interesting. I look forward to reading it.


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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