The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

March 10, 2011

Remarkable Creatures

Tracey Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures is set in Lyme, in the early nineteenth century, where Mary Anning, the young daughter of a impoverished cabinetmaker and fossil hunter, meets Elizabeth Philpot, a well-bred spinster in reduced circumstances who has moved to Lyme with her two sisters. Mary searches for fossils 'on beach' to sell them to gentleman scholars, Elizabeth takes up collecting fossil fish as an eccentric, inappropriate hobby, and the two women form and fall out of friendship through their shared interests. When she is only twelve, Mary uncovers the fossil of an ichthyosaur, a previously unknown animal, and she becomes a self-taught but remarkable fossilist, gradually earning respect and support of the men who dismissed her at first as a female, a 'worker' and a 'spare part.'  The novel also touches on the role of science in a world governed by religion, the doors open and closed to women, and the disturbing new idea of extinction.

I'm still always surprised when I finish a book that I hadn't expected to interest me very much, and I find that I've been engaged with the story from the first page to the last. (That's just the sign of a very good writer.) I do think listening to Remarkable Creatures as an audiobook contributed to this a lot. The book is written in alternating first-person narratives, and the two readers who took the parts of Mary Anning (glottal, romantic, excitable) and Elizabeth Philpot (resigned, polished, thoughtful, wry) in very different voices performed very well.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

1 comment:

Vintage Reading said...

Ooh I was thinking of planning a weekend in Lyme this year. This novel would be good to take - I liked your review.

Thank you for visiting!

Card Catalog

#6barsets #emma200th #maisie #Middlemarchin2019 #PalliserParty #Woolfalong A.A. Milne Agatha Christie Alexander McCall Smith Allison Pearson Amy Lowell Angela Thirkell Ann Bridge Anne Perry Anthony Trollope Anticipation Armchair Travels Art Audiobooks Barbara Pym Biography Bloomsbury Bookish things Boston British Library Crime Classics Cambridge Cathleen Schine Charles Dickens Coffee-table books Cookbooks D.E. Stevenson Deborah Crombie Donna Leon Dorothy L. Sayers Dorothy Whipple E.H. Young E.M. Delafield E.M. Forster Edith Wharton Elinor Lipman Elizabeth Gaskell Elizabeth Jenkins Elizabeth Taylor Elizabeth von Arnim Ellizabeth Taylor Emily Dickinson Ernest Hemingway Essays Eudora Welty Fanny Burney Fiction Films Food from Books Food Writing Found on a Blog George Eliot Georgette Heyer Gertrude Stein Helen Ashton Henry James History Homes and Haunts Ideas Imogen Robertson Isabella Stewart Gardner Jacqueline Winspear Jane Austen Joanna Trollope Julia Child Language Laurie Colwin Letters Library Books Literature Louise Andrews Kent Louise Penny M.F.K. Fisher Madame Bovary Madame de Sévigné Madame de Staël Margaret Kennedy Margery Sharp Martha Grimes Mary Shelley Memoirs Miss Read My Year with Edith Mysteries Nathaniel Hawthorne Nonfiction Nook Only Connect P.D. James Paris in July Persephones Plays Poetry Pride and Prejudice 200 Queen Victoria R.I.P. Reading England 2015 Ruth Rendell Sarah Orne Jewett Short Stories Susan Hill Switzerland Sylvia Beach Team Middlemarch The 1924 Club The Brontës the Carlyles The Classics Club Thomas Hardy Virago Virginia Woolf Washington Irving Willa Cather William Maxwell Winifred Peck Winifred Watson