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Remarkable Creatures [Kindle Edition]

Tracy Chevalier
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A stunning novel of female friendship, forbidden love and evolution from the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

In the early nineteenth century, a windswept beach along the English coast brims with fossils for those with the eye…

From the moment she’s struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is different. Her discovery of strange fossilized creatures in the cliffs of Lyme Regis sets the world alight. But Mary must face powerful prejudice from a male scientific establishment, not to mention vicious gossip and the heartbreak of forbidden love.

Then – in prickly, clever Elizabeth Philpot, a fossil-obsessed middle-class spinster – she finds a champion, and a rival. Despite their differences in class and age, Mary and Elizabeth’s loyalty and passion for the truth must win out.

Remarkable Creatures is a stunning novel of how one woman’s gift transcends class and gender to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, it is a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.

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Praise for Remarkable Creatures

‘It is a stunning story, compassionately reimagined’

‘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’

‘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’

‘Chevalier shows her skill for working history’s lost individuals into far-reaching fiction’
Good Housekeeping

About the Author

Tracy Chevalier is the author of five previous novels, including the international bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Virgin Blue, Falling Angels, The Lady and the Unicorn and Burning Bright. Born in Washington, DC, she moved in 1984 to London, where she lives with her husband and son. She is Chairman of the Society of Authors and has a website at

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1426 KB
  • Print Length: 357 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (24 Aug. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007178379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007178377
  • ASIN: B002RI9AV8
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #19,907 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Tracy is the author of seven historical novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 4 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 most recent novel, THE LAST RUNAWAY, is her first novel to be set in the United States, and she learned how to make quilts for it. 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 will tell you more about her and her books.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
83 of 85 people found the following review helpful
By kymara VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The woman who spawned the famous tongue twister 'She sells sea shells on the sea shore' is again immortalised in words in this latest novel by Tracy Chevalier.

You can find a short biography of Mary Anning at the Natural History Museum website, but what this novel does in fill in the gaps (with some imaginative license, of course). For example, while history records a Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas James Birch as a patron of the family, this novel puts a different spin on his relationship with Mary Anning. The interplay of fact and fiction makes for really interesting reading.

Mary Anning is not the only heroine of this novel, her close friend Elizabeth Philpott, an older woman, recently relocated to Lyme Regis from London. She is educated and knowledgeable about earth sciences; she has a passion for finding fossils, while for Mary Anning it was a harsh necessity. Were the novel just written from Mary's point of view, I believe it would have suffered. Having a more mature voice adds balance and depth - especially in the sections where Elizabeth starts to question the Church's unscientific explanation of fossils of now extinct creatures.

For those who have an interest in geology, ecology or women scientists, this novel will hold extra special appeal, but the story is compelling enough, and the writing skilled enough that it's really an enjoyable novel for all. However if you are looking for a strict biography of Mary Anning, this would not fit the bill - artistic license has been applied.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden worlds 24 Aug. 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Tracy Chevalier has a talent for visualising the lives of people she has never met. Girl With a Pearl Earring was an excellent example and now Remarkable Creatures brings to life the character of Mary Anning, just as Mary brought to life in her mind the fossils she discovered on the beaches around Lyme Regis. Mary Anning really existed and was an incredible person - clever yet uneducated, working class yet at home with all levels of society, female yet independent - not just of spirit but financially as well.

We see Mary's life not just through her own eyes but those of her friend, Elizabeth Philpot, another historical character who founded a museum in Lyme dedicated to fossils. With references to Jane Austen and the Royal Society where Charles Darwin was to present his own findings, the book is contextualised in an era when enormous changes were happening in society and the scientific and religious communities. The lives of women was tightly controlled and women like Elizabeth and Mary, who stepped out of the mould, were ridiculed and pitied at the same time. Neither married but both made a huge impact on our understanding of the past and the creation of the world. Well told and very readable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her best yet? 13 Sept. 2009
By Phil
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Tracy Chevalier's previous novel, Burning Bright, received a savaging by Amazon reviewers, and rightly so. But now she has shown her mettle by writing what may be her best book yet, and I congratulate her for bouncing back with such confidence and skill. Remarkable Creatures tackles serious themes - how women were kept on the periphery of scientific progress by dismissive men; how they were constrained in their expectations of marriage by class and 'reputation'; how individuals responded to advances in knowledge that challenged their faith - but it's never laboured. The language is plain, but elegant and fluid.

The chapters alternate narrations by poverty-stricken Mary Anning and genteel Elizabeth Philpot, and I enjoyed both equally. Mary's voice must have been hard to get right, and it's generally convincing (though I'm not sure about the idiom she uses, which I heard as Yorkshire in my head, though it may well be authentically old-Dorset). Elizabeth, too, is a winning creation: principled, compassionate and kind, and made rounder by flaws in her character. Her part of the story owes a debt to Pride and Prejudice, but is too persuasive and powerful to feel like a cheap crib, and anyway the ending of the novel severed such connections (and was immensely moving).

Chevalier is a beacon of hope in these times of literary mediocrity, and this is a wise, gentle, thought-provoking novel, beautifully crafted, and with a grip that never falters for a moment. A wonderful read, and highly recommended.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating novel - Fascinating topic! 23 Aug. 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was really excited about this new novel from Tracy Chevalier because I've read a biography of Mary Anning (which Chevalier cites in the back of her book as reading for further research) and I wasn't disappointed. This is a really lovely novel. It is set in such an interesting period of scientific discovery and history, and being published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Darwin's Origin of Species, it ties in very topically with the debates at the moment.
It's a gentle type novel which charts the friendship between Mary Anning, a working-class fossil hunter in Lyme Regis, and Elizabeth Philpot, a gentlewoman fallen on hard times who becomes a fossil hunter in her own right. It also highlights the difficulties that women in the scientific community must have faced in the fight to be taken seriously.
At times I was frustrated with the novel switching between the two first person viewpoints (of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot) and I think it might have worked better as a third person narrative, as at times Mary Anning was slightly unconvincing and I feel that the invention of a love affair for Anning was unecessary and somehow detracted from her achievements.
Really though, these are small criticisms of a very enjoyable novel and I would recommend you read this novel and then read some of the books which Chevalier suggests in the back of the book to find out more about the remarkable Mary Anning!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
This was offered for sale at a cheap price so I bought it on a whim. Didn't know what to expect from it. Read more
Published 7 hours ago by NoWireHangers
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this for my book club and really pleased that someone chose it...
Read this for my book club and really pleased that someone chose it for us to read. It picks up on so many topics apart from searching for fossils. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Chrispie
5.0 out of 5 stars One of her best.
Tracey Chevalier has a talent for bringing history vividly to life in all her books. The portrayal of the friendship which develops between two women from a different class and... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Carol Sperring
5.0 out of 5 stars this is an amazing book which describes the history of fossil hunting
this is an amazing book which describes the history of fossil hunting . its very descriptive a very good read if you are interested in fossils
Published 9 days ago by snowqueen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful account of fossil hunting and of the philosophical deliberations about the origin of the world
Published 14 days ago by jbs
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Enjoyable book
Published 20 days ago by Sue Pearson
4.0 out of 5 stars Fossils
Interesting book. Can't see them making a film of this one though.
Published 29 days ago by CAS
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
A beautifully detailed narrative that kept me turning the pages and forgetting time. Why have I never heard of Mary Anning, she was a remarkably talented and extraordinary woman... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Valerie Downs
5.0 out of 5 stars ... found this book absolutely fascinating to think that a poor girl...
I found this book absolutely fascinating to think that a poor girl could have achieved so much . Ihave visited Lyme Regis and also the fossil museum all very captivating
Published 1 month ago by Patricia Wyatt
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very interesting story and a good read
Published 1 month ago by Winifred Gower
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