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Remarkable Creatures

by Tracy Chevalier


If you live near to the Dorset town of Lyme Regis as I do, you will certainly have heard of Mary Anning. She is the star of the Jurassic Coast, fossil finder par excellence and a local (if not national) legend. This book sets the record straight, and tells the story—no less fascinating—of the real woman behind the myth. Told in her own words, in alternate chapters, it is interwoven with the story of her lifelong friend Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster from a different class, and their involvement with fossils, society, the male world and romance.

As always, Ms Chevalier can sum up a situation or describe a place in an admirably small number of words. She paints tangible portraits of all the people and their various circumstances that bring the tale to vibrant life. From Mary’s extreme poverty to Elizabeth’s own less straitened but more stifling middle class spinsterhood it is a poignant story not just of the closeness of female friendship but of vast gulfs. These are the gulfs between men and women, rich and poor, respectable and disreputable and amateurs and professionals. At times it can seem gloomy as the situation for either woman is not often a good one, but ultimately this is an uplifting story of raw talent and personality rising above ignorance and prejudice. This is not a big book, but it is full of big ideas, and although it doesn’t take long to read (being something of a page turner, no obscure literary tale here) it tends to stay in the mind afterwards like a pleasant taste. Definitely not one to miss.

The Book

14 August 2009
0007178379/ 9780007178377
Historical Literary Novel / Regency/ Lyme Regis, Dorset, England
More at US || UK
NOTE: To be published by Dutton Adult in US

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2009
© 2009