This is a small book on a large subject: What is special about human beings? Hamlet mused, ‘What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how like a god!’ but went on to speak of ‘this quintessence of dust’. Helen Oppenheimer prefers to start with the dust and move to the glory: we really are animals — and from these animals has come Shakespeare. People are indeed ‘miserable sinners’ — and also magnificent creatures.
The author does not disguise that she is a Christian theologian whose subject is ethics, but she writes equally for non-Christians. Her invitation to the reader is: Here is a way of looking at things that I find exciting and convincing — I hope you do too.