Sunday, December 19, 2010

Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures: A Novel
Author: Tracy Chevalier
ISBN: 978-0-452-29672-5
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
Source: FSB Associates
*To buy/price click the image to the left*

Synopsis [taken from book cover]:

From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is different. Though poor and uneducated, she learns on the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip -- and the scientific world alight with both admiration and controversy. Prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster and also a fossil hunter, becomes Mary Anning's unlikely champion and friend, and together they forge a path to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century.

My Review

"I have noticed that people do not change which feature they lead with, any more than they change in character."  - Elizabeth Philpot

Remarkable Creatures is an account of the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two women destine for the life of a spinster, who share a love and talent for fossil hunting and collecting. The novels, though fiction, contains many real people who lived in the 1900’s and were part of these two women’s lives. It is intensely descriptive, giving the reader a clear picture of life at this time. While reading this novel, I felt as if I was there with Mary and Elizabeth. The novel focuses on many important discoveries the two women make but has an equal attention to their friendship, admiration and understanding of one another as well.

The authors writing is sharp and descriptive, setting the town of the book as well as the language of its’ time period, with ease. The language flowed effortlessly throughout the story giving the reader the feeling they were alive and living in Lyme Regis in the 1800’s. The writing was well done but the novel was very slow to begin. I was unable to feel fully engaged in the story until I was at least half way through the novel. The second half of the book held a much faster pace and intrigue for me. The novel alternates between the voices of Mary and Elizabeth, though the chapters were not labeled to inform the reader of the switch. This was a little confusing at first; until I figured out that they switched by alternating every other chapter. I was able to read it simply but still had a transitional period in which I needed to adjust to the new voice telling their story. While I normally like this format, I am still unsure if I prefer it for this novel. Both Mary and Elizabeth are alike but vastly different. The adjustment period for me took away from the book as the characters voices were quite different from each other.

Overall the author has a solid novel with a vivid and interesting story dependent upon the readers’ level of interest in fossils as well as the time period and language. For me, the novel was an average read. I enjoyed it but it didn’t capture me or stand out among the crowd of fiction books available. I would suggest this book to readers interested in historical fiction, science fiction or literary fiction. If you are interested in the synopsis it does make for a unique and satisfying read. Feel free to give it a try.

Author Bio
Tracy Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of five previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and TwitterYou may also view the book trailer here: Remarkable Creatures Book Trailer.


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