Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

I didn’t realize how much I missed reading until I began to read Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel Remarkable Creatures. It was a delight to read such a notable book and I savored every page of it! So here’s my review:

Mary Anning, a young girl from the working class, collects and sells fossils in an effort to earn some income and thus support her family. Since her father’s death, Mary’s family has been struggling financially. Therefore, Mary spends every day on the beach of Lyme Regis, hunting for fossils. But for Mary, fossil hunting isn’t just about earning money – she has a real passion for her discoveries. The residents can’t comprehend Mary’s love for fossils, so she doesn’t have a good reputation in her town. The villagers think of her as an odd girl and their resentment to her becomes even stronger when Mary befriends Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster from London’s upper middle class. However, Mary has never been overly concerned about what others might think of her. Thus, she continues to visit Elizabeth and the two protagonists spend a lot of time together, hunting for fossils, studying their findings and exchanging thoughts on evolution and extinction. Over the years, Mary and Elizabeth have developed a strong bond, despite the fact that there is a 20-year age difference between them. Even though they come from different social backgrounds, their mutual respect and their love for fossils unites them and with Elizabeth’s help, Mary soon makes the most remarkable discoveries, such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. The clever girl has often found ammonite and belemnite shells in the past, but these fossils were common in Lyme Regis, thus they were nothing out of the ordinary. Her latest discoveries however, are the rarest of creatures, arousing the interest of many wealthy collectors, and Mary’s contact with them makes her once again the talk of town. Hence, the curious girl has to deal with gossip, scepticism and chauvinism. Moreover, her friendship with Elizabeth is threatened by jealousy. Will the two manage to overcome any obstacle and save their friendship? Any will Mary finally gain respect for her findings?

Remarkable Creatures is an absorbing and highly accomplished novel about two incredibly strong women who share the same passion and who struggle for recognition in the male dominated world of science in the 19th century. Tracy Chevalier skillfully illustrates how the inspiring protagonists are brought together by their shared obsession. However, this novel is so much more than just about scientific discoveries – it’s a radiant and moving novel about friendship, mutual admiration and jealousy. The author manages to create a mesmerizing setting and her attention to detail is what makes this book a must read for history and geology fans!

Although Remarkable Creatures is a work of fiction, Mary Anning, Elizabeth Philpot and other characters in the book really existed. Bestselling author Tracy Chevalier became inspired by Mary’s fascinating life story while visiting a small museum in England, where she came across some of Anning’s fossil finds. And I’m sure readers are glad that the author made this “remarkable discovery”!

I highly recommend this beautifully written tale to those who like historical novels and who like to read books about exceptional women. I really loved this amazing book because it was very interesting to learn about fossils and to find out that women made such incredible scientific findings. However, Mary and Elizabeth encountered a lot of scepticism and chauvinism because of their love for fossils. Mary Anning’s discoveries were largely overlooked at that time, due to her gender and social status. Her fossil finds were controversial and they raised questions about the history of origins. Mary’s discoveries forced people to look at the world with different eyes and that’s what makes her findings so important!

All in all, I must say that I really enjoyed reading this engaging book. It left me with a fascination for fossils and made me want to read other novels by this outstanding author!

I would like to thank Amanda Walker from Penguin Group for giving me the opportunity to read and to review this great book!



15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vivienne
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 19:17:26

    I have yet to read any books by Tracey Chevalier, but I have a friend who swears by her.

    I will definitely keep this one in mind.

    I imagine you are finding life quite tiring at the moment,with the new baby, but I can promise you it will get easier. The first few months are always going to be hard, with a constant lack of sleep, but it will get better.


  2. Andreea
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 19:39:27

    You should read this book. I think you will like it:)

    Thanks. Yes, it’s stressful, not so much because she doesn’t sleep, but because Emma is crying soooo much that my ears start to hurt:)

    But as you said, it will pass and it will get better!


  3. Nymeth
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 20:05:43

    I am dying to read this! Chevalier’s Girl with the Pearl Earring is one of my all-time favourites, and this sounds just as good. Women in the Victorian era pursuing their intellectual interests – how could I not love it? 😛


  4. Kathleen
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 20:26:53

    I’m glad you found such an enjoyable book to get back to reading with!


  5. Lua
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 20:36:24

    I’ve read the Burning Bright last year and I loved it. Thank you for the recommendation, this one’s definitely going on my list 🙂


  6. Sandy
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 23:37:01

    I’ve read a few reviews of this book, and it definitely is appealing. Perfect even for a Women Unbound selection. Very nice review! It is great to have you back!


  7. Melody
    Feb 22, 2010 @ 01:33:29

    Great review, Andreea! I’ve yet to read anything by this author but have heard lot of raves about her books so I’ll definitely check them out! 🙂


  8. Carole
    Feb 22, 2010 @ 17:01:56

    This is another book on my huge wish list!
    I’ve read ‘Falling Angels’ by Tracy Chevalier which I thought was excellent.
    Lovely review, Andreea.


  9. Andreea
    Feb 23, 2010 @ 12:23:03

    Nymeth: I am 100% sure that you’ll love this book!

    Kathleen: Thanks. It was indeed an enjoyable novel.

    Lua: You’re welcome. This was my first book by this author and I will definitely read her other books too in the future.

    Sandy: You should read it; I think you will like it!

    Melody: Thank you. Check them out, you won’t regret it:)

    Carole: Thank you very much. I want to read The Lady and the Unicorn next.


  10. JaneGS
    Feb 25, 2010 @ 18:03:30

    I’ve been seeing this book mentioned but didn’t realize it was about Mary Anning, whose story I find absolutely fascinating. I will have to read this one, especially since you gave it such a postive review.

    >Remarkable Creatures is an absorbing and highly accomplished novel about two incredibly strong women who share the same passion and who struggle for recognition in the male dominated world of science in the 19th century.

    Sounds perfect! And, I really liked Girl with a Pearl Earring, so I’m confident that Chevalier can pull this one off.


    • Andreea
      Feb 26, 2010 @ 13:58:46

      You should definitely read it if you liked her other books. It’s a great story and I think everyone should read it!


  11. Kristen M.
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 22:44:18

    I keep adding books to my wishlist, hoping to get to them SOME DAY and then reading more and more good reviews which force me to find the book immediately. I’m definitely going to have to find this one sooner than later!


    • Andreea
      Mar 02, 2010 @ 11:33:35

      I know how this is. My wish list contains over 100 books now. I keep finding books I want to read when I visit other book blogs, but what can I do about it? That’s how it is when you are a book lover:)


  12. Lesley Courtney
    Mar 05, 2010 @ 12:44:01

    This is indeed a wonderful book. My family and I are the living relatives of Mary Anning and we live in Poole, Dorset and it is wonderful to know that so many people have enjoyed reading about her life. Marys life story was indeed fascinating as is our family tree. We are proud to have such a wonderful author write about her. Many thanks Lesley Courtney


    • Andreea
      Mar 05, 2010 @ 14:27:23

      Wow, you can definitely be proud of the fact that you are related to such an impressive woman who has made so many important scientific discoveries! I am honoured to have you here. Thank you so much for stopping by and letting me know this incredible story!


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