Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier

Dec 20

This type of book, by Tracy Chevalier (author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, a personal favorite) is like a time transport for me.  Ms. Chevalier is a master at taking an historical event or person and building a fictional story around them.  Case in point here is Mary Anning, born in England in 1800.  She is struck by lightning as a baby and survives; she swears this makes her different and more alert and restless for the rest of her life.  Mary Anning makes her way through life with a keen eye for hunting and selling “curies”  (curiosities….for the most part fossils that she hunts up along the beaches next to Lyme).  Through her quests she finds a friend, Elizabeth Philpot, who is just as passionate about fossils as she.  The two friends come from different walks of life; Mary is working class; Elizabeth is a lady.  Mary has some grammar issues; Elizabeth is well read.   The story is told through the viewpoints of both characters, in alternating sections.  They are also both women who made some pretty significant scientific discoveries back in the day when women were not thought to have anything worthy to offer, academically speaking.  This is a beautiful story about the friendship of two women, sans men, doing manly things in a time it was severely frowned upon.  Some of the dinosaur lingo bored me a bit; I have never been fascinated with those creatures.  It was interesting reading about the discoveries at a time when it seemed such things were a personal affront to God.  I always love reading about something brand new to me…be it fossil hunting or 19th century social mores.

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