This is historical fiction based on real characters. It could just as easily have been titled remarkable women, the story is about two women and an unlikely friendship set in the early 1800’s.
The Philpot sisters moved to Lyme Regis when their brother took a wife. He no longer had room for his 3 spinster sisters and remaining in London would be too expensive so they were banished to a smaller, cheaper town. Elizabeth Philpot developed an interest in the fish fossils found on the beach.
Mary Anning was a precocious young girl at the time, with an uncanny talent for finding fossils, She had the eye for it, could spot them in the unstable hillsides thereabouts.
They were an odd pair for a friendship to form; Elizabeth was middle class with an inquiring mind, good education, and a modest but reliable income. Mary was from the lower class, with a father who saddled the family with ruinous debt, few prospects, and no education. Their common interest in fossils formed a bond.
Mary Anning made amazing discovers that started discussions about extinction years before Charles Darwin.— Deon Stonehouse
Summer '11 Reading Group List
“Tracy Chevalier brings history alive in Remarkable Creatures, which fictionalizes the story of Mary Anning, a young fossil hunter, who in the early 1800s made a discovery along the English seacoast that challenged the world views of geologists and theologians. Chevalier's skillful storytelling takes the reader back in history to walk in the footprints of this remarkable woman.”
— Carol Hicks, Bookshelf At Hooligan Rocks, Truckee, CA
January 2010 Indie Next List
“Tracy Chevalier brings history alive in Remarkable Creatures, which fictionalizes the story of Mary Anning, a young fossil hunter, who in the early 1800s makes a discovery along the English seacoast that challenges the world views of geologists and theologians. Chevalier's skillful storytelling takes the reader back in history to walk in the footprints of this remarkable woman.”
— Carol Hicks, Bookshelf At Hooligan Rocks, Truckee, CA
From the New York Times bestselling novelist, a stunning historical novel that follows the story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever.
On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary learns that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot ammonites and other fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.
Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset.
From the author of At the Edge of the Orchard and Girl With a Pearl Earring comes this incredible story of two remarkable women and their voyage of discovery.
About the Author
"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I’m still here.
"As a kid I’d often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing ‘real’ stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.
"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I’d written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.
I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered ‘big’ enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.
"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend’s name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he’s become a highly respected agent in the UK and I’ve gone along for the ride."
Praise for Tracy Chevalier
"Evokes entire landscapes...a master of voices."
—New York Times Book Review (on Falling Angels)
"Absorbing...[Chevalier] creates a world reminiscent of a Vermeer interior: suspended in a particular moment, it transcends its time and place."
—The New Yorker (on Girl With a Pearl Earring)
“Chevalier admirably weaves historical figures and actual events into a compelling narrative.”
—San Francisco Chronicle (on Remarkable Creatures)
"Chevalier's signature talent lies in bringing alive the ordinary day-to-dayness of the past...lovingly evoked."
—Elle (on Burning Bright)
"Chevalier's ringing prose is as radiantly efficient as well-tended silver."
—Entertainment Weekly (on Falling Angels)