You’ll have to forgive me, because I actually read “Remarkable Creatures” quite awhile ago, and just never got around to writing my review. Unfortunately I suffer from that problem with books I borrowed from the library or took off of my own shelves. When I get behind in my review writing, those are the ones that suffer. So instead of writing a regular review, I’ll just give you the publisher’s synopsis as found on Amazon and some of my thoughts.
From the publisher:
A voyage of discoveries, a meeting of two remarkable women, and extraordinary time and place enrich bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s enthralling new novel
From the moment she’s struck by lightening as a baby, it is clear that Mary Anning is marked for greatness. On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, she learns that she has “the eye”-and finds what no one else can see. When Mary uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious fathers on edge, the townspeople to vicious gossip, and the scientific world alight. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is barred from the academic community; as a young woman with unusual interests she is suspected of sinful behavior. Nature is a threat, throwing bitter, cold storms and landslips at her. And when she falls in love, it is with an impossible man.
Luckily, Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a recent exile from London, who also loves scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy. Ultimately, in the struggle to be recognized in the wider world, Mary and Elizabeth discover that friendship is their greatest ally.
Remarkable Creatures is a stunning novel of how one woman’s gift transcends class and social prejudice to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, is it a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.
I loved the plot of Tracy Chevalier’s new book, because I knew absolutely nothing about the early days of fossil finding, and all of the debates that played out about what these animals were, whether or not they were things that had gone extinct, and the religious questions surrounding that. The very best part about “Remarkable Creatures,” though, was the ambiance. I would swear to you that I was actually witnessing events happening in early 19th century England, to the point where I had a hard time with a lot of historical fiction for a couple of weeks after that, because not much was comparing to the way that Chevalier’s characters lived completely and authentically in their historical setting.
Highly recommended, but maybe wait until you don’t have a lot of other historical fiction to read, because you don’t want it to ruin the other stuff!