Friday, 14 August 2009

Remarkable creatures (Chevalier)

I love the way that one can be drawn to a book by a random assortment of circumstances. Last weekend when we were down on the south coast, a colleague of mine was further to the west in Lyme Regis. Lyme Regis is famous for fossils and fossil hunting and I spent a long time telling my boyfriend about a book that I had read at school called Mary's Anning's treasures, which now seems to be out of print. It was the only class reader that I remember actually enjoying; by the time the class had got to the second chapter, taking turns to reading aloud, I had already surreptitiously read to the end of the book, and then read it three more times before we all got to the end. Anyway, the book is about the fossil hunter Mary Anning who made all sorts of amazing discoveries, such as the first complete ichthyosoraus (sp?!).

On Wednesday night, I was home alone and feeling poorly, so had treated myself to a copy of Coast magazine, which I love for its pictures of the sea and the seaside (you all know how much I love the sea!). The back page was an interview with the author Tracy Chevalier; it was mainly about her experiences with the sea, but the reason that she was being interviewed was that she has just published a new book called Remarkable Creatures which is a fictionalised version of the story of Mary Anning. Having enjoyed some of her other books, including the fictionalised story of Vermeer, and having Burning Bright on my TBR pile, I was very keen to read this.

Yesterday, I found myself wandering into Waterstones at lunchtime to kill , still feeling poorly and a bit sorry for myself, I found that Remarkable Creatures was book of the week, and even though I had only that morning resolved not to buy any more new releases (hardbacks are expensive and occupy more space), and was only £7.99, the price of a paperback (and cheaper than So I bought it, and had a lovely evening with it last night.

The book describes Anning's unlikely friendship with a lady called Elizabeth Philpott, 20 years her senior. Together they hunt fossils, and deal with various events that come their way. The book gives an amazing insight into the world of fossils and natural history, as well as a view into the social world that both occupied in the early 19th century - Anning's very working class and poverty stricken, Philpott's a poor middle class. Interestingly, Lyme Regis was a popular tourist destination with assembly rooms like those in Bath and was visited by Jane Austen.

Do read this - it's an easy read, but extremely enjoyable and informative too.


  1. Spied this in the Books Quarterly magazine that you sent me and got all excited, Chevalier's books count as favourites of mine. I have to say though that Burning Bright didn't do it for me so I'm glad to hear that Remarkable Creatures was enjoyable. Off to check my library website.

  2. I didn't know she had written a new book. I so enjoy her books. I am off to see if it is available in the US. How funny is that that you were discussing Anning and then came across the book. I hope you are feeling better.

  3. This book sounds great - I didn't even realise Chevalier had a new one out!

  4. Isn't it interesting how a book can find it's way to you? And often that story can even add to the enjoyment of a book. I didn't know Tracy Chevalier had a new book. I've read a couple of hers, but have especially fond memories of Falling Angels... which I read on a Florida beach!

  5. That is pretty neat how you had just been talking about her and discovered a new book based on her life.
    I've read most of Tracy Chevalier's books except the more recent ones. I will have to look into this one.

  6. I so wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the subject matter - right up my alley. I have read Chevalier's A Girl With a Pearl Earing and enjoyed that but not so much her next book. Am glad to read here that you enjoyed her latest offering. She is coming to Australia soon and I am considering attending a literary luncheon with her.

  7. Ooh, a literary luncheon with Chevalier - that sounds like it would be fun!


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