Saturday, September 7, 2013

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

In 1810, a sister and brother uncover the fossilized skull of an unknown animal in the cliffs on the south coast of England. With its long snout and prominent teeth, it might be a crocodile – except that it has a huge, bulbous eye.

Remarkable Creatures is the story of Mary Anning, who has a talent for finding fossils, and whose discovery of ancient marine reptiles such as that ichthyosaur shakes the scientific community and leads to new ways of thinking about the creation of the world.

Working in an arena dominated by middle-class men, however, Mary finds herself out of step with her working-class background. In danger of being an outcast in her community, she takes solace in an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, a prickly London spinster with her own passion for fossils.

The strong bond between Mary and Elizabeth sees them through struggles with poverty, rivalry and ostracism, as well as the physical dangers of their chosen obsession. It reminds us that friendship can outlast storms and landslides, anger and jealousy.

I found Remarkable Creatures, remarkably boring.  This is the third novel I have read by Tracy Chevalier and I am starting to think that Girl with a Pearl Earing was a fluke since it is the only book I've liked.
In the video Tracy says the book is about Mary and Elizabeth's friendship. Well, she missed that mark.  Tracy spent too much time harping on the fossil aspect of this book (which she obviously did extensive research on) for anything but the fossil's to be well developed.  Every time I read about a new fossil discovered by Mary I thought, wow there are a lot of fossils on this beach.  It might be historically correct, but it was hard to swallow as a reader.
Another thing Tracy seems to be proud of is her discovery that Mary was struck by lightning as a child.  She writes this into the book but it seems out of place.  It adds nothing to Mary's character or the friendship the book is supposed to be about.
Overall this was a very dry, extremely slow moving book.

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1 comment:

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

I liked the book a little better than you did, but not much. It was very dry! I've read all of her books, and I love her books about art best. I wasn't crazy about the William Blake (Burning Bright) one much at all.

Have you read the Lady and the Unicorn or Falling Angels? I liked them okay.

I haven't read The Last Runaway yet, and I probably won't.

You've had two bad reads in a row, my friend! I hope you find something fun to read this week!