Remarkable Creatures centers around two very different, but similar, women: Mary Anning, a fossil hunter along the Lyme Regis coast of England, and her friend, spinster Elizabeth Philpot. Mary was struck by lightning as a baby, and has been able to magically locate fossils ever since, selling them for coins to go to her poor family's livelihood. Elizabeth, exiled to Lyme Regis with her two spinster sisters after the death of their parents and their brother's marriage, finds fossil collecting a wonderful way to pass the lonely hours. Mary and Elizabeth search for fossils together, until Mary uncovers a large unknown skeleton (a dinosaur) that rocks the scientific community. After that, Mary is in demand by the numerous fossil collecting gentlemen of the time, hoping to add to their collections a large dinosaur. As a woman, with little education, Mary is not given acknowledgement for her findings, and doesn't mind it, until her fossils are called into question of authenticity by Cuvier himself. Elizabeth, hurt after a rift over a man, loses contact with Mary until Mary needs help proving that her fossils are the real thing. Confronted by the sexism of the times, the two women realize that working together is necessary for recognition.
This fictional story is based on a real person. Mary Anning did, in fact, hunt for fossils, and several of her findings are still in museums today. But little is known about her, and the author offers a delightful interpretation of a good-hearted girl just trying to support her family.
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, … more
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 … more
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, … more