Customer Reviews


9 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Found Treasure
In addition to being the apt title of this fictional biography of Mary Anning, the finder of fossil curosities, "curiosity" is the driving force behind the prize-winning Manitoba writer, Joan Thomas in her excavation of this self-taught and unsung 19th century British paleontologist. A compelling subject, Anning was marked by a lightning bolt as a baby and, according to...
Published on April 4 2010 by D. M. Millin

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Curiously disappointing read
I recommended CURIOSITY by Joan Thomas to my book club as my choice for this year, largely based upon the views of other previous reader/reviewers. Sadly, I did not enjoy the book much at all, and would have preferred now to have selected another. I found much of the plot predictable and boring. Despite being a well-educated and experienced reader, I expected this...
Published on Jan. 15 2012 by BD.


Most Helpful First | Newest First

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Found Treasure, April 4 2010
By 
D. M. Millin (Winnipeg, Manitoba) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Curiosity (Hardcover)
In addition to being the apt title of this fictional biography of Mary Anning, the finder of fossil curosities, "curiosity" is the driving force behind the prize-winning Manitoba writer, Joan Thomas in her excavation of this self-taught and unsung 19th century British paleontologist. A compelling subject, Anning was marked by a lightning bolt as a baby and, according to local lore, as a consequence was fey, fearless and spoke her mind ever after. With her "anthracite" eyes, she was her father's favoured helper in combing the Dorset seaside for "curies" and the additional income they afforded the poverty-pared family. Presaging Darwin's theory that species evolve, at the age of twelve she unearthed the scientific proof with her first fossil find. With patient dusting, washing and chiselling, it took her months to release the 6,000 year old dolphin-like creature from the limestone and shale cliffs surrounding her home.
Although the setting of the seaside resort of Lyme Regis has had previous literary exposure in "Persuasion" by Jane Austen and in "The French Lieutenant's Woman," Thomas snares and inhabits it as her own. "Piles of bracken lay washed up at the foot of the cliff: frilled sashes the rosy mauve of elderberry, and flags of glistening black, and brilliant, torn sea lettuce, all tangled like an extravagant bed of ribbons." Her fine eye, descriptive ability, meticulous research and use of evocative language from the period create a naturalist realism which grounds Anning in place and time. Like her fossils, she too was compacted in place: by relentless poverty, family responsiblities, by her local clergy who viewed her obsession with dead fossils as Satan's work, by male academics and collectors who claimed her finds as their own and by class-driven societal barriers.
And yet, she said "yes" to life and in Curiosity: A Love Story, finds a soulmate in the young Henry de la Beche, the absent Jamaican plantation owner with artistic skill at rendering her finds. They are bonded by their respect for science and love of the local glades which shield them temporarily from the realities of class. Mary was revered for her care in unearthing her finds - not breaking them, removing any dust that would shroud them, washing away extraneous bits, rendering them as true to their species as possible. It is the kind of care that Thomas has given her subject. Like the cliffs gave up its creatures to Anning, Thomas has given up Anning to us. You won't forget her.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Clubs Will Love It!, April 25 2010
By 
V. Armanios (Winnipeg, MB) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Curiosity (Hardcover)
Joan Thomas' new novel "Curiosity" reveals a beautifully crafted evocation of Lyme Regis, Dorset at the moment in the early 1800's when fossils made the leap from curiosity cabinet to scientific laboratory.

At the centre of the novel is Mary Anning who, historically, was famous as the first woman fossilist, pre-dating Darwin by several decades. Thomas describes her as having a gift for seeing in the shale and limestone cliffs what has "never been seen or even imagined."

Through Mary, Joan Thomas develops themes that are a natural part of the times: the heartbreak and injustice of the English class system, the challenge of paleontology to nineteenth century religious faith, the confining restraints of gender and class, and above all, the temptations and longings of the human heart.

This novel will have wide appeal among readers who appreciate not only careful background research and fine writing, but also an engrossing story that involves forbidden love, the excitement of fossils found and lost, and unforgettable characters driven by pride, greed and curiosity. This is a great read. Joan Thomas' novel "Curiosity" would be an outstanding choice for book clubs everywhere.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good read, April 7 2010
This review is from: Curiosity (Hardcover)
I just finished "Curiosity" today and it was everything a good book should be. I was sad to put it down, but also felt a deep satisfaction at its close. Mary Anning and Henry De la Beche's characters are rich, complicated, and compelling. The amount and depth of research that obviously went into this book is very impressive. And on top of the beautifully presented characters and a stunning amount of research, the story that "Curiosity" tells is its strength. The story itself is dramatic, captivating and moving. I highly recommend it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Oh, she's a history and a mystery, our Mary.", Aug. 30 2010
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Curiosity (Hardcover)
Mary Anning, the heroine of Joan Thomas' novel, CURIOSITY, was indeed a mystery and has, for a long time, been a mere footnote in the history of paleontology. Her recognition as "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew"*) came long after her death in 1847. Basing herself on whatever facts are known about Mary, her family and English society mores and rules in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Thomas has created a multi-layered, convincing and engaging portrait not only of her heroine but also of the social realities of her time.

Mary's obstacles to be acknowledged for her contributions and increasing competence and knowledge were two-fold: she was still a young girl, barely educated and self-taught, when she made the first sizeable prehistoric fossil find, the first specimen of an *Ichthyosaurus*, and she was "lowborn", living in the poorest part of Lyme Regis, on England's southern shore and a centre for "fossilizing" during her lifetime. To support her family, Mary had been selling ammonites and other small petrified treasures as "curiosities" to visitors and "gentlemen geologists". Among the latter was Henry De la Beche, who took a liking to her beyond the curios. Close in age, they met initially when there were still teenagers and over the years he followed her explorations up and down the cliffs of Lyme Regis with great enthusiasm and growing respect for her detailed knowledge of the taxonomy of her fossils. **)

Lyme Regis is defined by the cliffs, with the poor people living close to the seashore. Storms, high tides with resulting flooding of low-lying areas of town are frequent and the cliffs prone to landslides. Daily, Mary is driven by both hunger and intellectual "curiosity" to discover new creatures and/or work methodically on digging them out of their rocky grave. The dangers of the tides and the changing landscape in response to the weather are constant reminders how fragile the land is and how precarious the digging for fossils could be.

Henry's story is told in often alternating chapters, allowing the author to add another facet of the social context: Henry grew up in Jamaica as son of a slave-owning plantation owner. In part, this explains his nonconformist behaviour but also his financial and other constraints at a time when the moves towards the abolition of slavery may have further reduced his income from the plantation. Eventually and based on his work, indirectly helped by Mary, Henry is accepted into the prestigious Geological Society and debates with other then well-known early paleontologists across Europe.

Thomas suggests that Henry and Mary may have been romantically linked as well working together. She imagines touching, yet guarded, encounters during walks along the cliffs and through the undergrowth above them. The descriptions illustrate the social stigma any such contact would have carried, given the strict class rules of the day. The author pursues the depiction of their social differences into the language they use in dialog and also into Mary's inner reflections.

These early fossil finds challenged the scientific thinking on the origin of life (decades prior to Darwin's ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES) and led to intellectual controversies by leading scientists and religious leaders of the day. With great skill Thomas explores these often emotional debates in some depth by bringing several geologists into the core of her novel. A few had met and bought from Mary, others did not believe that her work could be genuine. While none of them ever acknowledged Mary's contributions, her fossils were used, nonetheless, in evidence for any of the theories centred on the newly coined concept of "evolution". Above all, it challenged the scientists how the fossil evidence could be brought into harmony with the Bible and Christian beliefs in Genesis, the Flood and Noah's Ark. Fascinating debates indeed.

One of the challenges for a novel that fictionalizes the life of historical figures and their real-life circumstances is to maintain the momentum of the narrative and balance between an interesting wider context and an engaging personal dramatic story. Thomas writes perceptively about Mary and with great sensitivity, presenting her as a strong-willed young woman who, despite knowing her 'personal lower station' increasingly fought against her social limitations. Overall, the author has succeeded, in my view, to combine the various threads of the narrative well. At times, however, the detailed portrayal of Mary's daily struggle and her family's efforts on the one hand, and life among the "highborn" on the other, may seem a bit slow and drawn out to some readers. Similarly, for others less interested in the scientific explorations and debates, the intricate descriptions of the early fossil finds and the details about the gentlemen geologists's lives and debates may seem to be lacking in dramatic drive. The book ends in 1824 somewhat abruptly and I for one found this a bit disappointing. A more informative and rounded ending may have added to the sense of a completed novel. (4.5 stars) [Friederike Knabe]

*) The British Journal of the History of Science in 1999, the bicentenary of her birth, describes Mary Anning in this way.
**) She was eventually credited with, among others, the first nearly complete example of the Plesiosaurus, discovered in 1824.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing achievement, Nov. 19 2010
This review is from: Curiosity (Hardcover)
Joan Thomas' Curiosity is the best novel I've read in years. I was completely captured by this story, and by the way the tale was spun. Highly highly recommended for lovers of literature. I wonder if Jane Austen could have done any better.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, July 14 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Curiosity (Paperback)
This is the kind of story that you feel sad when it ends, and wish there was a sequel. I was fully absorbed, and recommended this book to everyone. It stays with you, and I love stories that are based on real accounts.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, Dec 5 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Curiosity (Paperback)
I love the story and the way it is written. Easy book than you can pick up anytime in any place.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Here there be dragons, May 23 2012
By 
C. Brown (Peace Country, Alberta) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Curiosity (Hardcover)
Curiosity is a completely believable imagination of Mary Anning and Henry de la Beche's characters and lives. Everything that was known of Anning has been included here, seamlessly blending into intriguing fiction. Much is made of the love story and social/political/religious conflicts, but if that isn't what you're looking for don't let it put you off. This is the story of the birth of palaeontology, an introduction to fossils and fossil collecting, but most of all it's about two characters (with the added appeal that their real counterparts once walked the shores of Lyme Regis). Anning is a woman of great fortitude, someone who knows herself well. In life she was an unsung hero; this books sings a lot more about her than just "she sells sea shells by the sea shore".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Curiously disappointing read, Jan. 15 2012
By 
BD. (British Columbia) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Curiosity (Paperback)
I recommended CURIOSITY by Joan Thomas to my book club as my choice for this year, largely based upon the views of other previous reader/reviewers. Sadly, I did not enjoy the book much at all, and would have preferred now to have selected another. I found much of the plot predictable and boring. Despite being a well-educated and experienced reader, I expected this novel to grab me quickly at the beginning. It didn't. At times, I thought the pace plodding, its story line inevitable. To be fair, some natural descriptions and allusions are apt and evocative, and Thomas does include interesting vocabulary and usage which would have been contemporary to Anning. I did push myself through to the end, and was dissatisfied with this novel overall.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Curiosity
Curiosity by Joan Thomas (Paperback - Feb. 1 2011)
CDN$ 21.00 CDN$ 15.16
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews