Remarkable Creatures

Quite behind on some book reviews and a few other update posts. Today we’ll start with a review of Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.

 

I read this book as part of one of the three or so bookclubs of which I am a part. Chevalier also wrote Girl With A Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn, among others. The group in the bookclub wanted to read something a bit lighter than some of the heavier, meatier things we had all been reading lately. This was a good choice for just that. When I say light, however, I don’t mean that it wasn’t worthwhile, merely that it wasn’t too elaborate or complex nor was the material itself emotionally dense.

Based on the real life of Mary Anning, a fossil hunter from the 1800’s whose discoveries contributed to the continued scientific analysis of ancient creatures and their, as well as our, place in history. Along with Mary there is her somewhat unlikely friend, Miss Elisabeth Phillpot, a spinster among spinsters who has moved to Mary’s area of the English Coast in her and her sisters’ marriageless exile and discovered her own love of ‘curies’ or the fossils that she discovers ‘upon beach.’

The story is about both the amazing discoveries made by Mary and the friendship between two women of different ages and social groups. It was a well told story revealing many sides to the restrictions and freedoms in the lives of women of different social strata and shone light on the obvious disregard given to women of the time from the scientific community. There is a bit of Jane Austin here, not only because it is set in the same time and deals with the same financial, social and emotional issues she addressed, but also in the general flavor of the novel. Miss Phillpot’s internal commentary on being a woman, and particularly a spinster, in the world with comments like, ‘It is so tiresome being a lady’ seem to be a gentle tip of the bonnet to the Austin canon.

In all, a good and worthwhile read. I read this not too long after reading Room (though with some others in between) and there was a common theme, albeit dramatically different setting, of the helplessness of these women and seeking freedom from circumstances beyond their control.

In general, I have had a difficult time getting into books lately. I read a portion of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and while the character of Lisbeth is definitely compelling and, in her dark way, heroic, it took forever for me to feel I was in the story. Also, I had a similar experience with Stones From The River. Both of those are good books, but you must begin them with a sense of commitment. Remarkable Creatures was no different. However, I am currently reading a book that on the first page I was curious, by the 10th I was asking questions and shortly thereafter I was hooked. Now that’s the kind of book I’ve been looking for! The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

 

 
 
Reviews forthcoming on
Light Boxes
 
 

The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One
 
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