by Tracy Chevalier
Dutton Books 2010
As mentioned in previous posts, I have finally been able to read this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Along the coast of Southwest England is an area called the Jurassic Coast. It has been given this name for the many fossils found on these beaches. One of the towns along this coast is called Lyme Regis in Dorset.
The story begins around the year 1812. The southern English coast brims with fossils for those who can find them. From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is marked for greatness. When she uncovers unknown dinosaur fossils in the cliffs near her home, she sets the scientific world alight, challenging ideas about the world's creation and stimulating debate over our origins.
In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary Anning is soon reduced to a serving role, facing prejudice from the academic community, vicious gossip from neighbours, and the heartbreak of forbidden love. Even nature is a threat, throwing bitter cold, storms, and landslips at her.
Luckily Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly, intelligent Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who is also fossil-obsessed. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty and barely suppressed envy. Despite their differences in age and background, Mary and Elizabeth discover that, in struggling for recognition, friendship is their strongest weapon.
Remarkable Creatures is Tracy Chevalier's stunning novel of how one woman's gift transcends class and gender to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century.
It is also said that Charles Darwin could not have written the Origins of Species if Mary Anning had not made her fossil discoveries.
I am proud that a large number of my ancestors came from the West Country, where the Jurassic Coast area is located. However they were not fossil hunters.
There is another recent novel about Mary Anning available as well. Curiosity. I have this on reserve at the library.