Friday, June 10, 2011

Books: Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures
By Tracy Chevalier
Copyright 2009
312 pages

My book club met last night and Remarkable Creatures was our read this time.

It is a wonderful book.

The story is a fictional account of a real life event: the finding of dinosaur bones at Lyme Regis in England.

It is also the tale of two women, of varying social classes and ages, and how they connect through a love of the past. They are also both searching for truth, and in this they run up against the conventions and bounds of the day.

Mary Anning is poor and uneducated, but she has a knack for finding treasures on the beach. The treasures are fossils. She and her father and brother hunt the fossils and sell them to tourists. When we meet her, she is but a child.

Elizabeth Philpot is a middle-class spinster who moves to Lyme Regis with her two sisters at the behest of their brother. As male of the household he has determined they should move from London (and his new wife) and settle elsewhere, happy with the stipend he provides.

Elizabeth finds herself drawn to the beach and soon to the fossils. Of course it is only natural that she strike up a friendship with the younger woman.

The book is told in the first person by both women, and this allows the reader to feel comfortable with them. Elizabeth takes on a sisterly role with Mary and is keen to help her and her family after her father dies. However, Mary's mother, Molly, has a strong will of her own.

When Mary makes a major find, unearthing an entire skeleton of a prehistoric fish, the men come out of the woodwork to purchase the beast  - and to take the credit for the find. It only through Elizabeth's persistence that Mary is eventually acknowledged as the real archaeologist.

I read this book when I shouldn't have - I was in the middle of writing final papers for my graduate courses. I needed a break and picked up this book, thinking to read a few pages to clear my mind and then put the book down. Six hours later, I realized I needed to get back to work.

Chevalier has brought to life a character in history who was completely unknown to me. Mary Anning really existed, as did Elizabeth Philpot. You can find information about both women online. It is also worth looking up Lyme Regis to learn more about the fossils found there.

This book is HIGHLY recommended.

5 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good read! I'm going to have to make a list of the books you recommend!

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  2. Thanks for the book review. I've been searching for some good summer reading titles : )

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  3. I read her first book, "Virgin Blue" but nothing since.... I'll have to remember this one!

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  4. Thanks. I have ordered the book!

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  5. Sounds really good--will have to add it to the "to buy" list.

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