Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: Remarkable Creatures

Title     : Remarkable creatures
Author : Tracy Chevalier
Genre  :  Historical fiction

First sentence reads: Lightening has struck me all my life.

Rating: 5/5

I just finished reading three books by Tracy Chevalier and decided to write the review of Remarkable Creatures first. Why? Because it was so very different and unique. The first sentence was so tantalizing and hooked me to know why Mary felt the way that she did. The thought of a girl to have discovered something significant that changed the way scientific community thought of evolution and extinction was inspirational.

Set in early nineteenth century, this story tells the extraordinary tale of a simple girl born in the seaside town of Lyme Regis in England and that of the intelligent spinster Elizabeth Philpot. Mary Anning was struck by lightening when she was a baby. She is not only unusual in the sense of being struck by lightening and surviving it but also because she has the eye for finding fossils which her coastal town is famed for.

Lyme's beach were brimming with fossils but only a serious fossil hunter with an eye for hidden treasures could extract them out from the clay soil. Mary and her brother Joe collect fossils found on the beach and cliff side of beach between Lyme and Charmouth to be sold in their curie stall to supplement the family income. The people of Lyme Regis were not fond of those fossil hunters or people who collect curies. Thus Mary was a loner and found her solace in fishing ammonites and gryphaea out of muddy beach sand.

Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster who has resigned to the fate of never finding the one, relishes in intelligent pursuits. She and her two other sisters relocated to Lyme Regis after their brother gets married and takes up their family home for his new life. Elizabeth who initially resisted leaving London is enchanted by the quiet Lyme Regis town and the prospect of starting a new hobby in the curious fossils she found in the beach.

Despite their age difference, Mary and Elizabeth become fast friends in their passion for finding fossils. The quiet life of Mary and Elizabeth  takes a sharp turn when Mary uncovers a huge fossil in the cliff by her home. That was the beginning of many more discovery which not only elevated Mary's reputation as a fossil hunter but it also created a buzz in the scientific community on the origin of earth and possibility of extinction of god's creatures. Together Mary and Elizabeth ride the turbulent waves evoked by Mary's fossil of unknown creature, riding into the cusps of new hope, of times where woman were not accepted into scientific community and of forbidden love.

I enjoyed every bits of this story. The story was narrated by both Mary and Eliabeth and I appreciated the author for allowing us to get into both their minds. The narrators were lovable enough, though there were flawed in their own ways yet they redeem themselves in putting their friendship and passion for fossils above all. The setting of the story, Lyme Regis was interesting to read about. The story was beautifully written, with a delicious mixture of various tones, at time serious, at times quickening the pulse and definitely with a little humor. I felt like coming back from a long beach holiday after closing the book and each time I look at a seashell I would remember Mary Anning and the ever loyal Elizabeth. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a historical fiction with a interesting scientific discovery.

Favourite quotations

I have long noted that people tend to lead with one particular feature, a part of the face or body. My brother john for instance leads with his eyebrows. It is not just that they form prminent tufts above his eyes, but they are the part of his face that moves the most. - Elizabeth Philpot

To me looking for curies is like looking for four-leaf clover; its not how hard you look, but how something will appear different. My eyes will brush over a patch of clover, and I'll see 3,3,3,3,4,3,3. The four leaves just pop out at me. Same with curies. - Mary Anning

We say very little, for we do not need to. We are silent together, each in her own world, knowing the other is just at her back.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I adored this book too, like you I enjoyed every single page of it. It was helped by the fact that I used to holiday in Lyme Regis as a child, so the book had a nostalgia element to me.

    What other Chevalier books have you read? I've read Girl With A Pearl Earring and Virgin Blue, but Remarkable Creatures remains my favourite.