Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier

I'll read pretty much anything written by Tracy Chevalier, and own physical copies of six out of her seven books, mostly because all of her stories are historical (a fascination of mine) and have interesting plots. Some of her books incorporate famous figures or art, but all of them bring you a bit further towards understanding the past.

Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot both led incredible lives for unmarried women in the early 19th century. Anning made significant discoveries that were not recognized as much until after her death: in 2010 the Royal Society listed her as one of ten women who had most influenced the history of science. Ever tried to the tongue twister 'She sells sea shells by the seashore'? That was also inspired by Mary Anning. Tracy Chevalier certainly knows how to pick interesting historic characters to base her novels on.

The Plot:
Elizabeth Philpot and her unwed sisters are forced to move from London to the small coastal town of Lyme Regis after their brother gets married. There they acclimate to a different way of life, as well as taking up hobbies to occupy their time. Elizabeth decides to collect fossils, and soon strikes up a friendship with young Mary Anning, who also has an interest in fossils, only in her case, it's to sell them. But with Elizabeth's education and Mary Anning's eye for curies, will their friendship stand the test of time?

Although this isn't my usual action packed read, it does sustain the reader's interest. There are a lot of little historical details I never knew about- ladies having to wear gloves at all times outdoors, the use of bathing machines to preserve a sense of modesty, and that women were pioneers in paleontology.

One thing that irked me was the author chose to include improper English in Mary Anning's point of view, to show she was relatively homespun and uneducated. It was easily made clear to me through simple conversations and I found the inclusion of it added nothing to my experience, other than to make me want to edit every other chapter.

Remarkable Creatures is a book about the importance of friendship with an intriguing look at the early days of paleontology. While it does have its stylistic drawbacks, it manages to breathe life into long dead characters who don't often have their stories told. I recommend this to people who want to learn more about Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot in an entertaining fashion.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good historical about the fate of unwed women in the 19th century.

Content: Ages 16+ for sexual content.

Page Count: 310 pages in my paperback edition.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel Free to Express Yourself:
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...