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Remarkable Creatures [Hardcover]

Tracy Chevalier
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 5 2010

A voyage of discoveries, a meeting of two remarkable women, and extraordinary time and place enrich bestselling author Tracy Chevalier's enthralling new novel

From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear that Mary Anning is marked for greatness. 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.

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Praise for Remarkable Creatures 'It is a stunning story, compassionately reimagined' Guardian 'Chevalier recently stated that making fossils sexy was one of her chief aims in writing Remarkable Creatures. With this very entertaining book, she has certainly succeeded' Telegraph 'Very entertaining and informative' The Times 'The backdrop of shifting evolutionary ideas finds a rueful echo in Chevalier's tender portrayal of two extraordinary women who refuse to be constrained by society' Sunday Telegraph 'An enthralling novel of female friendship and fossil hunting.' Woman and Home 'An extraordinary tale about two 19th century women who attempt to alter ideas about creationism with their discoveries of dinosaur fossils' Daily Mirror 'Involving themes of friendship and the hidden world of women as much as the excitement of discovering the fossils' significance, Remarkable Creatures is itself a find' Metro 'Chevalier shows her skill for working history's lost individuals into far-reaching fiction' Good Housekeeping --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Raised in Washington, D.C., Tracy Chevalier moved to England in 1984, and in 1994 graduated from the M.A. course in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Her first novel, The Virgin Blue, was chosen by W. H. Smith for its Fresh Talent promotion in 1997. She lives in London with her husband and son.

Tracy Chevalier
"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I'm still here.

"As a kid I'd often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing 'real' stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.

"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I'd written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.

I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered 'big' enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.

"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend's name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he's become a highly respected agent in the UK and I've gone along for the ride."

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "She is only the hunter..." Nov. 22 2010
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In "Remarkable Creatures" Tracy Chevalier re-imagines the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two truly significant women in the world of science in the first half of the nineteenth century. Both were fascinated by fossils of sea-land creatures that they collected up and down the cliffs and beaches around Lyme Regis, a small town on England's southern shore and a centre for amateurs to find and for scientists to buy fossils from the locals. In easy-going fluid language, Chevalier created two believable voices as they describe their lives, their friendship and the struggle to be recognized for their knowledge.

Mary, by twenty years the younger and historically the better known, had "the eye" for discovering fossils, often hidden in nodules, under rocks or emerging from landslips common in the region. Born into a very poor family, selling fossils as "curies" (curiosities) was a financial necessity for survival; her amateur fossil-hunting father taught his young daughter the skill of finding, identifying, cleaning the "curies" and presenting them for sale. At the age of eleven or twelve, Mary came to the attention of the "gentlemen scientists" when (probably with her brother Joe) she literally "unearthed" an almost complete dinosaur skeletons: an "ichthyosaurus". It was the first of an impressive number of such extraordinary discoveries that Mary made over the years, leading, eventually, to her becoming somewhat famous in her own right, and with more and more scientists seeking her out for assistance. Nonetheless, poverty remained a constant threat for most of her life.

Interleafed with Mary's first person account of her younger life, are chapters that give Elizabeth Philpot a direct voice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier Nov. 21 2010
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (Rated: C)
ISBN: 978-0-452-29672-5
Penguin Group
Published November 6, 2010
Trade Paperback, 299 pages
Reviewed by Sandra
Tracy Chevalier has done it yet again! She has managed, by her delicious choice of words, to authentically evoke a by-gone era, England in the early 1800's. Jane Austen would have recognized the small English town by the sea, Lyme Regis, where people went to recover their health or because they were forced to live in "reduced" circumstances, as was the case with Elizabeth Philpot, one of the two fascinating and strong women portrayed in the novel.
This is a story of two unlikely friends. Mary Anning is a young girl from a poor family who hunts for fossils that she sells to contribute to the family income. She has an "eye" for fossils. Elizabeth Philpot is a middle-class spinster about 20 years older than Mary who is also a fossil hunter. In fact, every day they go "upon beach" as Mary expressed it, to hunt for them. Their lives are worlds apart socially but they become fast friends because of their shared passion for fossil-hunting.
One day Mary and her brother make a spectacular find embedded in a cliff - a remarkable creature - a fossil - an 18-foot stone "monster" - a dinosaur! This complete skeleton finds its way eventually to the British Museum. Sometime later, when Mary Anning's reputation as a reliable fossil hunter is maligned, Elizabeth Philpot wants to defend her friend. Elizabeth is very much a woman of her time who has a mind of her own (Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice would have admired her) but is hampered by prevailing attitudes about women. She tells her brother that she wants to address the Geological Society (all men) on Mary's behalf.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Anning, Remarkable Person Feb. 19 2013
I enjoyed "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" and have also read "Burning Bright" so I decided to try this novel based on facts.
I found it a very interesting book indeed. It was easily read but also very informative. I have visited Lyme Regis, walked along sections of the crumbling cliff path and picked up a few fossils from the beaches there but I had not realised that it was a site of such scientific and historical importance. Tracy Chevalier's book opened my eyes to these scientific wonders and also gave a perceptive picture of Mary Anning's background, her life and times, as well as that of the more well-to-do Elizabeth Philpot and some of the famous geologists of the day.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Dec 22 2009
By Saro
Tracy Chevalier's sixth novel, Remarkable Creatures, traces the dramatized life of pioneer fossil collector Mary Anning of Lyme Regis in seaside 19th century England. Anning was an illiterate, working-class young girl whose claim to fame was being struck by lightning as a baby and having survived.

In her upcoming novel, Chevalier spreads her signature touches throughout the book. Indeed, this absorbing narrative of resilient friendship and adventures of a thirst for knowledge trails the intrepid scientific discoveries of young and rash Mary Anning and older, genteel London spinster Elizabeth Philpot, two women from diverse backgrounds and social sensibilities despite the testy current of conservative conventions and mores, and discover each other.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Creatures Jan. 24 2011
By Pauline
I remember reading to my daughter when she was small a children's book about Mary Anning and how she inspired my daughter to study dinosaurs. We would go the Royal Tyrell Museum every year to see the fossils. So, to say the least, I was excited to read this book "Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier and I was rewarded, it is a delightful book.

Mary Anning was a working girl who had an eye for hunting out fossils and she discovered many fossils that had not been seen before, she was a pioneer and many men came to her to have her enrich their collections which they often took credit for finding. Being a female and living in the time that she did, Mary Anning's work went unrecognized as to receiving credit for the finds...the credit usually went to the males who purchased the fossils from her.

Being of a lower class, Mary was never accepted into the upper society she sold her fossils within, they did respect her, but they used her to no end to expand their own collections. This book is a wonderful book that opens your eye to a world before women were given the respect and acknowledgement they deserved especially in the field of science.

It was a treat to learn about Mary Anning's life in a fictional setting and to see her love for fossils intermixed with her need to survive by selling the fossils she devoted her life to. She is definitely a woman one can revere.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying read
I felt perfectly satisfied after reading this delightful book. It was a good story, well told. Lovely writing style. I loved that it was based on real-life persons and events. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2011 by mary l bancroft
4.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable
Remarkable Creatures is one part history, one part novel. It follows the known events in the life of Mary Anning, filling in the unknowns with fiction. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2011 by Vanessa M. Dow
4.0 out of 5 stars Discovering Fossils and What They Were: The Mary Anning Story
"The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2010 by Donald Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Historical Fiction
Based in the early 1800s, this is the story of Mary Anning, who was a real life person who was one of the best fossil hunters ever. Read more
Published on March 21 2010 by MacFly
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly "Remarkable" Story
This is truly a "remarkable" work of fiction. As always I am captivated by Tracy Chevalier's writing. It is beautiful, lyrical, and breathtaking. Read more
Published on March 3 2010 by Andrea Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars "Fossil hunting does that to people - it breaks down the rules"
In Remarkable Creatures, Chevalier unfurls the fascinating life of the little-known fossilist Mary Anning. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2010 by Walter Hypes
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