Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier

In one of those strange bits of concurrency I read this book right after Richard Dawkins The Greatest Show On Earth. One thing I really noticed was the conflict with the religion. Living in quite secular times it is hard to imagine being concerned that a creature existed that was now extinct and what did that mean about God and man?

Here’s the blurb …

In 1810, a sister and brother uncover the fossilized skull of an unknown animal in the cliffs on the south coast of England. With its long snout and prominent teeth, it might be a crocodile – except that it has a huge, bulbous eye.

Remarkable Creaturesis the story of Mary Anning, who has a talent for finding fossils, and whose discovery of ancient marine reptiles such as that ichthyosaur shakes the scientific community and leads to new ways of thinking about the creation of the world.

Working in an arena dominated by middle-class men, however, Mary finds herself out of step with her working-class background. In danger of being an outcast in her community, she takes solace in an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, a prickly London spinster with her own passion for fossils.

The strong bond between Mary and Elizabeth sees them through struggles with poverty, rivalry and ostracism, as well as the physical dangers of their chosen obsession. It reminds us that friendship can outlast storms and landslides, anger and and jealousy.

This novel has two different narrators; Elizabeth and Mary (they alternate chapters). The voices of the two narrators are remarkably different and it adds depth to the story to have two different points of view.

I found this to be a quick read and I enjoyed the historical aspects (I didn’t know anything about Mary Anning or Elizabeth Philpot). Having said that the best I can say is that it is a light, easy read.

Here are some other reviews …

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