Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures was a most wonderful read.  The author, Tracy Chevalier is most known for having written The Girl With the Pearl Earring.  And I have a confession to make.  I never did read that book.  But, I did watch the movie.  However, after having read Remarkable Creatures, it will go on my to read list.

Remarkable Creatures is about two women from opposite sides of society.  Mary Anning, a poor girl who had been struck by lightening when she was little which left her with the ability to find “curies”.  Curies are little fossilized sea creatures that wash up on the shores of the town she lives in Lyme.

The other character, Elizabeth Philpot, though not rich, is definitely middle class.  But, Elizabeth is plain, or at least she has a sharp jawline that is not considered soft enough to attract a suitor.  When her brother marries, his new wife and he decide that the house is not big enough for his new family in the making, so he sends Elizabeth and her two sisters to live in Lyme, setting them into a small house with an annual allowance that grants them a modest means of living.

Elizabeth also collects Curies and meets Mary when she ventures into Mary’s fathers cabinet shop to see about ordering a cabinet for her collection.  They strike up a friendship initially based on the shared interest they have in the little fossils.  Over time, it progresses to a very deep sisterly relationship.

Its a very interesting story of a relationship between two women in an age where most people socialized only within their own social class.  It is also full of interesting knowledge and names of early collectors and scientists of fossils at a time when care must be taken not to allude to the possibility that these creatures separate from the proscribed God’s design.

Tracy Chevalier has created rich and layered characters that draw you in and immerse you in their world.  She does not just told a story, she has woven it and will trap you in the web of it.  Her voice is unique and lyrical.  And she will find a place on my authors to follow the works of list.

One thing I was pleased to note after finishing the book is that it is also based on real people with a fictional tale woven about the characters.  Both Mary and Elizabeth did exist and the were both fossil collectors whose finds can be found in museums in Britain and abroad.

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