Shines a light on women usually excluded from history—and on the simple pleasures of friendship. Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. Email address:. Please provide an email address. Categories of Interest: Select All. Current Affairs. Historical Fiction. True Crime. Profession: Author. What are his motives? In the end, do you consider him a decent man? Which woman needs the other more?
Why does Elizabeth go to London? What does she hope to achieve? After Mary agrees to sell a specimen to Cuvier, Mam accuses her of becoming a collector, no longer a hunter. What does she mean by that? Is she right? What was your response to the ending? What similarities and differences do you see? Learn More About Remarkable Creatures print. LitFlash The eBooks you want at the lowest prices. Read it Forward Read it first.
Pass it on! The other major theme running through the pages of the book is the role of women. It was extremely difficult for Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot to get any respect or recognition for their accomplishments. And with all the Regency romances that are so popular, it's good to see a more realistic take on what women at that time could expect for love and marriage. There are worse fates. I was mildly irked by one plotline that seemed like a modern imposition on Regency society and there's nothing in actual history to support this part of the story : view spoiler [Mary and Elizabeth both fall for the same older guy.
Mary hopes that he'll ask her to marry him, but eventually realizes that's simply not going to happen. After she figures that out, she decides to sleep with him just one time, just for the experience of having sex, because she's realized she's not likely to ever marry him or anyone else. It just seemed like late 20th century kind of thinking to me. If she'd slept with the guy hoping to get him to marry her, that would have made more sense for those times. Plus the guy is kind of a cad, but that's a whole 'nother story.
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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. My Review : A middling book about interesting times and people.
The Globe and Mail
Not extraordinarily well, or poorly, written. Not unusual or original in plotting or in, frankly, any way I can think of. Like all of Chevalier's work, a solid, well-made entertainment, about a subject most of us have never given one instant's thought to. Therein its charm. Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot weren't the women of Jane Austen's novels, and they weren't subjected to the same constraints as those women were. They lived in poverty whether genteel or grinding, and they followed their own interests instead of doing what was thought to be necessary to get a husband.
Chevalier points up the ways in which this freedom made the women best able to pursue the passions each might never have known had she been a mother and a wife. We owe our knowledge of plesiosaurs and other aquatic beasts of the era to these remarkable women, who hunted for and preserved fossils along England's Dorset coast. That Mary Anning was the more productive of the two and that it was she who found the major finds does not minimize the better-off Miss Philpot's many contributions, both emotional and financial, to the process.
In the end, it is the usual suspect, jealousy, that ends the friendship across a generation and a class divide. Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot fall in love with the same man. It leads to the eruption of their other jealousies, of course, and the many things we think but never say come out of each woman's mouth. Years pass, and many events occur, but unlike theirs, endings are only rarely as good as beginnings.
Anning and Philpot lived in a time when the role of a woman was to be of service. Neither had a man to serve, so they served Mankind with their old rock-boned beasts. Much of what we think today would have been harder and later in coming without them, their small but vital role in making modern science what it is. Remarkable creatures indeed. A gorgeously written story about fossils and friendship. Its rare gentleness makes it truly beautiful.
The two audiobook narrators do an incredible job as well. View all 12 comments. Jan 14, Stephanie rated it it was amazing. Another winner by Chevalier I had never heard of Mary Anning and as I read this, it again dawned on me how many women have been erased and disappeared from history because of sexism and male prejudice during the times they lived in Anning was a major paleontologist who was completely self taught, living in poverty, and discovered several important prehistoric fossils from the Jurassic period that challenged the conventional thinking of the time about creation, the age of the earth, and survi Another winner by Chevalier Anning was a major paleontologist who was completely self taught, living in poverty, and discovered several important prehistoric fossils from the Jurassic period that challenged the conventional thinking of the time about creation, the age of the earth, and survival of the fittest 50 years before Darwin wrote the Origin of the Species It is even more amazing when one discovers she found some of her most famous fossils when still a child Her recognition for these achievements is taken from her by the wealthy male landowners and scientists who try to claim her discoveries for themselves Bravo to Chevalier for making the unknown known about this remarkable intelligent women and the ongoing strength of her supportive friendship with another fossil hunter, Elizabeth Philpot.
Remarkable Creatures is a beautifully written book about two remarkable women, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. Poor, uneducated Mary Anning and middle-class, London-bred Elizabeth Philpot form what is considered an unconventional friendship, due to their differing social classes, based on their love of fossils and fossil hunting. Despite my Remarkable Creatures is a beautifully written book about two remarkable women, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot.
Despite my extremely limited knowledge in the fields of geology and paleontology, I found this book fascinating. The novel alternates back and forth between the points of view of both Mary and Elizabeth. I found this to be a very effective means for the reader to gain insight into the innermost thoughts of both of these women. Always lurking in the background is of course the restraints placed on both women due to their gender and their social class. Mary Anning was truly a gifted fossil hunter and yet she struggled to become recognized for her work due to being a female during these times. She was most definitely looked down upon as a result of her working-class status.
Elizabeth Philpot, due to her middle-class standing, was able to champion Mary in certain social and scientific circles. However, Elizabeth was also limited in these circles due to her gender. Having gone to London to defend Mary at one point in the novel, Elizabeth, like all women at the time, was not allowed past the threshold of the Geological Society. Mary, perhaps due to her lower-class standing, found it easier to take risks and express her true feelings without caring what others would think.
Elizabeth felt the need to show more decorum as was expected by society. What appealed to me personally was their ability to grow as individuals, learn from one another, and find the true gift and meaning of forgiveness. In addition to the scientific and social narratives in Remarkable Creatures , Tracy Chevalier also examines the religious significance of the findings of these fossils.
And what ramifications would this have on humanity itself? The scientific community as well as laymen and the clergy struggled with these questions. He did not create beasts and then get rid of them. That would suggest He had made a mistake, and of course God is all-knowing and incapable of error, is He not? Even the learned men in this novel struggle with these mysteries. Additional debates ensued regarding whether the Bible should be interpreted literally or figuratively. I found these reflections to be quite thought provoking in many ways.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about fossils and fossil hunting regardless of current knowledge of the subject. Tracy Chevalier has inspired me to look further into the topic with some suggested further reading listed at the end of this novel. Even if fossils themselves do not arouse your curiosity, this is still a wonderful composition of a remarkable friendship that overcomes class struggles and personal conflicts, and a compelling glimpse at the impact of science on religion.
View all 17 comments. Oct 04, Duane rated it really liked it Shelves: rated-books , reviewed-books , 21st-century , historical-fiction. This is the story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, fossil collectors in England in the first half of the 19th century. Their gender and social class kept them from receiving the credit and recognition they deserved for their discoveries. Historical fiction with great characters and a very interesting subject. Tracy Chevalier is one of the best writers today in this genre. I know, this book is not great literature but for some reasons I really enjoyed it and will count it to my favourite bokks.
The story is about Mary Anning, who lived in Lyme Regis and since she was a girl uncovered fossils of at the time unknown creatures. Elisabeth Philpot, an educated woman from London,was forced to move to Lyme Regis with her sisters, because in the family was not enough money for all the sisters to marry. She started to hunt for fossils as well and despite their diffrent age I know, this book is not great literature but for some reasons I really enjoyed it and will count it to my favourite bokks.
She started to hunt for fossils as well and despite their diffrent age, Elisabeth was about 20 years older then Mary, and their diffrent background, Mary came from a workers family, they became companions and friends.
Remarkable Creatures - The Story
The book is not just an intresting feature about the ideas about the world's creation and our origins in that time, but it is about friendship between two very diffrent women and how they fight for recognition in a scientific world, dominated by men. Apart from that, if anybody is intrested in fossils and geology, this is a nice way to start. For me, it was specially intresting, because I live in the areaand will be able to go to Lyme Regis to follow Marys and Elisabeths traces.
View all 3 comments. Mar 06, BrokenTune rated it really liked it Shelves: reviewed. It was one of those miracles small towns thrive on: children seeming drowned then spurting out water like a whale and reviving; men falling from cliffs and reappearing unscathed; boys run down by coaches and standing up with only a scratched cheek. Such everyday miracles knit communities together, giving them their legends to marvel at. It had never occurred to me when I first met her that Mary might be "We had heard about the girl struck by lightning, for people still talked of it years later.
It had never occurred to me when I first met her that Mary might be the lightning girl. Mary shrugged , clearly uncomfortable with our sudden interest.
I am kidding, of course, but the thought of Mary Anning as a real-life HP using fossils as portkeys to be transported into a time so different that it might as well just be another world did appeal to me for quite some time. Tracy Chevalier author of Girl with a Pearl Earring created a fictional account of the friendship of two women who not only existed in real life but who also changed natural history as we know it. And all this decades before Charles Darwin would publish that little known tome about the the origin of species. So, who, I hear you ask, are the two women? Well, the first one is Mary Anning, whom the Natural History Museum introduces as follows: "The greatest fossil hunter ever known was a woman from Lyme Regis.
Mary Anning's discoveries were some of the most significant geological finds of all time. They provided evidence that was central to the development of new ideas about the history of the Earth. The spectacular marine reptiles that Anning unearthed shook the scientific community into looking at different explanations for changes in the natural world. William Buckland, Henry de la Beche and William Conybeare were some of the many scientists who owe their achievements to her. By the time of her death, geology was firmly established as its own scientific discipline.
What is even more astonishing is that Mary Anning had little education and spent most of her early years in abject poverty. The second woman is Anning's friend, Elizabeth Philpot, an educated woman who, being a spinster, relocated with her sisters to Lyme Regis after the death of their father. In fact, reading her story strongly reminded me of the sisters in Sense and Sensibility - and yes there even is a military man who plays a crucial role in the lives of both women. Anyway, spurned by the move to Lyme Regis, Elizabeth becomes a fossil collector, too, and befriends Mary.
Yet even then, there was something about her that drew me in. We shared an interest in fossils, of course, but it was more than that. Even when she was just a girl, Mary led with her eyes, and I wanted to learn how to do so myself. The difference in age and class causes many obstacles for women to communicate and there are major rifts between them, which left me wondering how they would cope, how they would resolve their differences. And in the end, whether they would manage to be able to rely on each other when everything they had worked for was put at risk and depended on their friendship.
Hence they would rather call this animal a crocodile than consider the alternative: that it was the body of a creature that no longer existed in the world. This idea was too radical for most to contemplate. Even I, who considered myself open-minded, was a little shocked to be thinking it, for it implied that God did not plan out what He would do with all of the animals He created.
If He was willing to sit back and let creatures die out, what did that mean for us? Were we going to die out too? View all 4 comments. Finished: I am glad that is over! I think I chuckled maybe once. The prose was stilted. I have never run into such a bunch of miserable souls. A huge disappointment. I absolutely adored this author's book Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Through page Ahhhh, I am laughing. The two main woman characters are jealous of each other, and it's quite amusing. Of course a man is invoved.
Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot are two real people and the two central characters of the book. The story is told alt Finished: I am glad that is over! The story is told alternately through their voices. The problem has been that Elizabeth has been so dammed level-headed that its been driving me niuts. A little jealousy is good for them. They finally feel like real people! Better late than never! Through page Half way through the book and finally something exciting has occurred.
I will not say what! Much of the book is about the religious consequences of fossil discovery. If fossils were in fact the remains of animals that no longer existed, this implied that God had made animals that were not perfect. Furthermore the creation of the earth as described in the bible had to be questioned. Such religious consequences and the proper place of women in socity are the two main themes. All is very well depicted, but now, after pages, this is the first time my heart has been beating rapidly.
It is only now for the first time that I am emotionaly moved. Through page Well written, but sorry, it is not grabbing me! It is rich in period detail and gives a good description of social mores of provincial life in a small English resort town at the beginning of the s. So why don't I like it more? I don't know! Or Curiosity! View all 23 comments. Mary Anning was one of those women in history who was not appreciated in her time and was given little or no credit for her remarkable talents. She was an uneducated person with a unique talent for finding prehistoric bones of extinct creatures in the cliffs around her home in Lyme.
Together, they contributed greatly to the scientific kn Mary Anning was one of those women in history who was not appreciated in her time and was given little or no credit for her remarkable talents. The facts of this story are augmented with very realistic suppositions as to the rest of the story. Chevalier has almost certainly gotten much of it right, and with the rest her guess is as good as an informed guess could be.
This is historical fiction at its finest. All the characters, real and imagined, are painted with a deft hand and ring completely true. It was inspiring to see how these two women carved out unique places in the society that disapproved of them simply because they wished for more than being a wife and mother. At this moment in history, intellectual property was the purview of men, and if you have ever been treated with condescension from a person who knew less than you did on a subject, you will feel the frustration of these characters as they attempt to deal with the men who usurp their accomplishments.
What Chevalier is unearthing is really the history of man.
Dec 04, Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , history-of-science , historical-fiction , england , mary-anning , tracy-chevalier. Mary Anning, the daughter of a cabinet-maker and fossil collector in Lyme Regis, was responsible for finding many Jurassic age creatures, unknown to science before. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Cheva Mary Anning, the daughter of a cabinet-maker and fossil collector in Lyme Regis, was responsible for finding many Jurassic age creatures, unknown to science before.
Chevalier tells the stories of these two women in first person, alternate chapters being told my Anning and Philpot. Anning was struck by lightning as a child which made her stand out, and later when she began to collect fossils, she becomes seen as even more strange by the rest of her town. But unlike her brother Joseph who only accompanies her because they need to make money, Mary is genuinely excited by her finds, and interested in uncovering more. Elizabeth Philpot has moved to Lyme with her sisters when their brother marries.
‘Remarkable Creatures’ by Tracy Chevalier
Each of them takes up a different hobby based on their interests—for Elizabeth, this is fossil collection. She meets and befriends Mary and each of them help the other in different ways. While this is a piece of fiction, and a lot of aspects, the scenes, the conversations that took place, the romances are imagined, some of the broad historical elements are real-life.
I really liked how the author gave each of these ladies a voice that seemed somehow to really be theirs—it seemed to capture what their thought processes could have been like, given their stories and backgrounds, so it might seem that one really is hearing their stories, views, as they would have told them. Yet, they have the interest and the strength to carry on, to live life on their own terms. Their romances, differences and jealousies are imagined but still fitted into the general plot pretty well. But other than that I really really enjoyed this one. A great read! View all 8 comments.