A perfect read for anyone who wants to appreciate a woman’s footprint in history, is interested in paleontology and fossils, or just wants a damn good read, Remarkable Creatures is it. I can find no fault in the book. From the beautiful rendition of a period piece, to the conversations, the interweaving of history, to the friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, it’s a perfectly written novel.
READ IF YOU…
- Enjoy period pieces set in the 1800s
- Love paleontology and fossils
- Want a damn good read
Title: Remarkable Creatures | Author: Tracy Chevalier | Rating: 4/5
The ‘remarkable’ story about Mary Anning, a female fossil-finder in the 1800s who, though a woman and working class, managed to work alongside the male scientists of her day.
You likely have never heard of her, though she’s an important figure in paleontology. Struck by lightning as a baby and surviving that, she and her family lived in Lyme, England. Mary and her brother collected fossils to sell, until one day, they stumbled across an enormous skeleton. They thought it was a crocodile.
It turned out to be an ichthyosaurus, an ancient reptile about 200 million years old. Later, Mary also discovers a plesiosaur, another ancient marine reptile.
The author says, “She was really quite an amazing woman…She was completely self-taught, never had any formal education, was very poor [and] found these things for a living.”
Mary’s findings all take place a half-century before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species broke onto the scene. During Mary’s time, scientists and geologists were still working to understand what these fossils were – what were these organisms that no human had ever seen in-the-flesh, but whose bones lay deep in layers and layers of rock and sediment. Most still thought the earth was 6,000 years old and was created in six days. The extinction of creatures didn’t fit in with the accepted worldview.
The book, Remarkable Creatures, tell’s Mary’s tale, but also weaves in that of her friend, Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster who lived with her spinster sisters. Mary and Elizabeth spent their time fossil hunting, with Mary selling what she found. In fact, “She sells seashells by the seashore,” may have been inspired, or a tribute to, Mary Anning.
I loved this book. I actually read it many years ago, but the story clung to me, much like bones buried deep in layers of rock and sand. And though I couldn’t remember the title and had to search for it, Mary Anning’s story never left me.
A perfect read for anyone who wants to appreciate woman’s footprint in history, is interested in paleontology and fossils, or just wants a damn good read, Remarkable Creatures is it. I can find no fault in the book. From the beautiful rendition of a period piece, to the conversations, the interweaving of history, to the friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, it’s a perfectly written novel.