"Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier
Published on Monday, April 5, 2010 - 10:53am
Can you imagine what people thought the first time a huge dinosaur fossil was pulled from the earth? They didn’t understand what it was, or what it meant for life on our planet that these “remarkable creatures” no longer existed. Tracy Chevalier’s (Girl with a Pearl Earring) latest book follows historical figures Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot on their quest for fossils through Lyme Regis, UK, in the 1820s. Mary Anning had a natural gift for spotting fossils in the rocky beach, and she sold them to make money for her struggling family.
When spinster Elizabeth Philpot moved to the tiny town, she latched onto fossil hunting to fill her days. The two women, separate in age and class, formed a close friendship over their shared passion, at a time when women were not supposed to be interested in such things. Renowned academics came to Lyme from all over England and France to watch Mary hunt fossils, which they paid her for and took back to their museums. However, she was not given credit for her work until later in life, due partly to Miss Philpot’s persistent advocating on her behalf. Now she is known as one of the most important fossil hunters in history. Read this fascinating fictionalization of a time of remarkable scientific discovery – thanks in no small part to two unconventional women.