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Remarkable Creatures Hardcover – January 5, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 353 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chevalier's newest is a flat historical whose familiar themes of gender inequality, class warfare and social power often overwhelm the story. Tart-tongued spinster Elizabeth Philpot meets young Mary Anning after moving from London to the coastal town of Lyme Regis. The two quickly form an unlikely friendship based on their mutual interest in finding fossils, which provides the central narrative as working-class Mary emerges from childhood to become a famous fossil hunter, with her friend and protector Elizabeth to defend her against the men who try to take credit for Mary's finds. Their friendship, however, is tested when Colonel Birch comes to Lyme to ask for Mary's help in hunting fossils and the two spinsters compete for his attention. While Chevalier's exploration of the plight of Victorian-era women is admirable, Elizabeth's fixation on her status as an unmarried woman living in a gossipy small town becomes monotonous, and Chevalier slows the story by dryly explaining the relative importance of different fossils. Chevalier's attempt to imagine the lives of these real historical figures makes them seem less remarkable than they are. (Jan.)
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Review

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 an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951452
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (353 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #487,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Tracy is the author of eight historical novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband and son and cat. Her new novel, AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD, is set among the apple trees in Ohio and the redwoods and sequoias of California. She is also editor of READER, I MARRIED HIM: STORIES INSPIRED BY JANE EYRE. Tracy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College and the University of East Anglia. Her website www.tchevalier.com will tell you more about her and her books.

Photo: Nina Subin

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Tracy Chevalier once again makes another time and place come alive in "Remarkable Creatures." I'm not particularly interested in fossils, but Chevalier presents such compelling accounts of two women who were, that she made me almost as interested in ammonites, ichthyosauruses and other extinct creatures as the fossil hunters and collectors who, in the early 19th century, changed scientists' views of the age of the earth and its history.

Remarkable Creatures is told in the first person narratives of two women in Lyme-Regis, on the Southwest coast of England. Mary Anning is the poor daughter of a cabinet maker and a laundress, while Elizabeth Philpot is a spinster two decades Mary's senior. Elizabeth and her two sisters, Louise and Margaret, have just moved to Lyme-Regis, their fortunes having decreased to the point where although they are of an elevated social status, their newly married brother can no longer support them in London. Chance brings these two women from different generations and social classes together, and through their mutual love of fossils they become unlikely friends. They tell their stories in alternating chapters as they flirt with love, hunt for fossils on the desolate cliffs and beaches of the southwest coast, and struggle to find their place in a society in which they are constrained by both their gender and their social status.

Chevalier has a gift for putting the reader squarely in another time and place and making them come alive. She also has the ability to delve into the workings of a trade as she did so skillfully in The Lady and the Unicorn (weaving) and Girl With a Pearl Earring (painting), here taking us into the workings of fossil hunting and preservation.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I made the unfortunate mistake of reading Chevalier's "The Virgin Blue" after reading--and loving--"The Lady and the Unicorn". I found "The Virgin Blue" such a letdown that it made me wonder if "Lady" was a fluke. I wanted to read more Chevalier just to make sure, but I was also a bit hesitant to do so because I have such an enormous backlog of books to read. When I saw this novel, though, I decided to give Chevalier a chance and, I'm happy to say, I now think it's "Blue" that was the fluke.

"Remarkable Creatures" is a tale of the remarkable fossils uncovered by a remarkable woman, Mary Anning, who, with the help of a long and remarkable friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, earned the credit she richly deserved. The tale is a fictionalized account of Anning's life and of her friendship with Philpot, and the author does acknowledge that she took some artistic license. Still, I think Chevalier has done a wonderful job of drawing attention to a woman who was, for me, an unknown historical figure. Yet, without Anning, a lot of what we now know about the creation of the world and the extinction of its ancient creatures may never have come to light.

Chevalier does a fine job of giving voice to Mary. Though Mary never received a formal education, Chevalier shows how Mary educated herself. The contrast between Mary's enlightenment and the reluctance of other, more learned people to accept the truths she uncovers is interesting. I found it interesting to speculate on whether some of the most esteemed minds of the time would have arrived at the scientific truths that we now take for granted, had it not been for the integral part Mary played in their uncovering.

Equally interesting to me was the character of Elizabeth Philpot.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Tracy Chevalier's "Remarkable Creatures" focuses on two historical women--Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, and tries to flesh out the historical accounts of the lives of these women that exists in the scientific record. The book begins when Philpot has just moved to the town of Lyme Regis, and first meets Anning. Philpot, in her late 20s, is already a spinster, and moving to Lyme from London gives her the freedom to pursue her unladylike passion for fossils. Anning has a natural gift for fossil hunting, and Philpot is quickly drawn to her. Over the next two decades these women will develop a close bond and make many fossil discoveries together. But will a force bigger than themselves--love or fame--eventually draw them apart?

In "Remarkable Creatures" Chevalier has done a good job of taking real historical figures and crafting an interesting story around them. I had never heard of either Anning or Philpot, but I actually had seen some of the collections of fossils they contributed to at the British Museum. The novel quickly introduces you to these two women and their world, and does a good job of helping you to see the world through their eyes. I thought the most interesting dynamic of the story was how the men treated Philpot and Anning, especially how they were considered just "hunters" not real scientists because they were women. Some of the novel, particularly the love stories and jealousy did seem a bit forced, but not so much so that they ruined the rest of the story.

I would recommend this book to readers interested in women's lives during the early 19th century and to general fans of historical fiction. It was well done and an interesting quick read.
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