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Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures is not the first Tracy Chevalier novel that I've read, and I'm sure it won't be the last.  Previously I've read The Virgin Blue and possibly another one.  I find that I always enjoy her novels and often they are hard to put down despite the long chapters.  Usually long chapters annoy me because I like to read a book by chapter, and I don't like to go away from it or put it down in the middle of a chapter.  Indeed sometimes long chapters are enough to put me off a book entirely.  And don't even get me started on Hemingway's The Old Man And The Sea--an entire book made up of ONE chapter: it was enough to drive me to distraction.

Set in early nineteenth century England, the chapters alternate between two narrators: Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot.  Anning and Philpot are two female historical figures that influenced fossil science despite the restrictions set upon their gender by nature of the time period.  The novel tells the engrossing story of the lives and work of two very different women separated by age, class, education and station in life but bound by a passion for fossil hunting upon the beaches of Lyme Regis in Dorsetshire, England.  The story is told over a span of two decades beginning with the spinster Philpot sisters' move to the quiet, small, coastal village of Lyme Regis.  Chevalier does a tremendous job of creating distinctive voices for the two narrators.

As much as the story is about the contributions that Anning and Philpot made to the field of geology through discovery of fossils of previously unknown, long extinct species, it is also about the friendship between these two remarkable women.  It is also a story of the coming of age of both women in their own time.  Readers of historical fiction, especially those who enjoy reading about women's early contributions to the scientific field, will love this book.  I recommend you pick it up the next time you're in the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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