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Friday, February 26, 2010

Remarkable Creatures

Chevalier, Tracy.  Remarkable Creatures.

A novel based on the lives of Mary Anning (1799-1847), perhaps the greatest fossilist ever, and her friend Elizabeth Philpot, whose collection of fossil fish was donated to the Oxford University Museum.  Although the book is a novel, it is peopled with some of the most well-known scientists and fossilists of the time:  Henry De la Beche, William Buckland, William Conybeare, Georges Cuvier, and Charles Lyell.

From first to last, I found myself absorbed in the novel.  Mary and Elizabeth's unlikely friendship and their unlikely occupations were so in contrast with the world they lived in, their obsession with fossils and paleontology, however,  brightened their otherwise restricted lives.  

I'm not saying the book is exactly a page-turner, but despite having little real plot, the characters and their interest in fossils delighted me.

Another excellent if short bibliography is included with this one.  The book I'm most interested in is The Dragon Seekers:  The Discovery of Dinosaurs During the Prelude to Darwin by Christopher McGowan.  (republished with slightly different title)

Fiction.  Historical fiction.  2010.  312 pages.


  1. I think I'd likely enjoy this for the historical setting alone :) That non-fic book sounds like it could be great too!

  2. I would like the combination of the times the two women lived in + their interest in something so male-dominated as fossils.
    Gotta have this one...luckily, Tracy Chevalier is easy to find over here...I'll be on the lookout for this novel. Thanks so much for the review.

  3. Nymeth - The setting IS interesting, both in time and place. So many fossils have been discovered along the beaches of Lyme Regis that it is known as the Jurassic Coast.

    Bybee - As is often the case, the novel spurred my interest in the area around Lyme Regis and the early finds. Mary Anning's discoveries were hugely important...and something I was entirely ignorant of. It is always fun to find another area of interest!

  4. I've got this one on my reading pile and can't wait to get to it. Even if it isn't a book you feel you need to race through I'm totally fascinated by the subject.

  5. Danielle - The subject matter made me want to know more. I love that in a book! Hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading Remarkable Creatures.

  6. I have this book checked out right now and hope to read it in the next couple of weeks. I'm glad you said it's not a page turner per se, but still enjoyable - that gives me a better idea of what to expect from it, pacing-wise. Thanks!

  7. That non-fic book sounds like it could be great too!

    your healthy choice

  8. Lesley - I enjoyed it mostly because I found learning about Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, even through fiction, was informative. It is my first book by Chavalier, but now I want to go back and read some of her other books that have been so popular with book bloggers. Love historical fiction!

  9. I heard an interview with Tracy Chevalier and I desperately want to read this book! I'm waiting patiently for my hold to come through, so I hope it will soon!

  10. There is a beautifully illustrated children's book about Mary Anning. Michael Dooling is the illustrator.

    MARY ANNING AND THE SEA DRAGON by Jeannine Atkins (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

    Remarkable Creatures intrigued me because it. I'm glad to hear your thoughts on the book.

  11. Lu - I'd love to have heard that interview! Hope you enjoy the book!

    bookmoot - I will look for this book--I have lots of children's books for the grandchildren. Thanks for the tip!