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Remarkable Creatures

A book by Tracy Chevalier

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Remarkable women

  • Aug 26, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4

Religion, women's rights, and social injustice all play a major role in Tracy Chevalier's newest novel, Remarkable Creatures. One of the heroines of the tale is Mary Anning, an impoverished woman living in Lyme Regis with a prodigious talent for discovering fossils. The other is Elizabeth Philpot, a member of the minor gentry who must rely for her living upon her married brother. When Elizabeth moves from London to Lyme to live more frugally, she meets and befriends Mary, for, despite their difference in class, they share a burning interest in fossils and the living animals they once were. Elizabeth provides Mary with a rudimentary education, and in return, Mary teaches her to hunt and collect. The years pass, and when Mary makes an extraordinary find, Elizabeth works with Mrs. Anning to help build an income for Mary. It isn't long before noted geologists and scientists are calling upon Mary to "assist" them in their own hunts. Because of the times, they take outrageous advantage of the young woman, who never receives the recognition that is her due.

These are real women, who lived in the first half of the 19th century, when the very idea of extinction was anathema because it suggested that God was imperfect. It was a rare woman indeed who received credit for any contribution to science or business, and class differences were accepted as part of God's plan. The story of Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning deserves telling, because together, they did so much to advance scientific thought and evidence with little personal gain. Tracy Chevalier has done a service to history by revealing the contributions of these remarkable scientists.
Remarkable women

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August 26, 2010
Sounds like a great story that certainly deserves to be told. I'd never heard of these particular scientists so I'm looking forward to reading about them. Great review, Linda.
 
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More Remarkable Creatures reviews
review by . March 28, 2010
Tracy Chevalier's latest novel, "Remarkable Creatures," based on the true story of fossil-finders Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, is a piece of feminist historical fiction that works. Set in the early years of the 19th century, the book is a reminder of how completely women were excluded from the scientific community of the time - regardless of what they might achieve they were unlikely to receive much official credit for their work. It was a time, too, when people still believed that God had …
review by . January 04, 2010
In "Remarkable Creatures," author Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Deluxe Edition, The Lady and the Unicorn: A Novel) takes the reader back to a time before dinosaurs were thought to roam the earth where the Bible and Aristotle were revered as the key references in understanding the organization of living things. But what if, as occurs in this very readable tale focusing on Mary Anning, one of the first fossil hunters of the early 19th century, her discoveries and her desire to be acknowledged, …
About the reviewer
Linda ()
Ranked #55
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
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Chevalier's newest is a flat historical whose familiar themes of gender inequality, class warfare and social power often overwhelm the story. Tart-tongued spinster Elizabeth Philpot meets young Mary Anning after moving from London to the coastal town of Lyme Regis. The two quickly form an unlikely friendship based on their mutual interest in finding fossils, which provides the central narrative as working-class Mary emerges from childhood to become a famous fossil hunter, with her friend and protector Elizabeth to defend her against the men who try to take credit for Mary's finds. Their friendship, however, is tested when Colonel Birch comes to Lyme to ask for Mary's help in hunting fossils and the two spinsters compete for his attention. While Chevalier's exploration of the plight of Victorian-era women is admirable, Elizabeth's fixation on her status as an unmarried woman living in a gossipy small town becomes monotonous, and Chevalier slows the story by dryly explaining the relative importance of different fossils. Chevalier's attempt to imagine the lives of these real historical figures makes them seem less remarkable than they are.(Jan.)
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ISBN-10: 0525951458
ISBN-13: 978-0525951452
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Publisher: Dutton Adult

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