Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jamie Takes On Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier

Remarkable CreaturesBook Title/Author: Remarkable Creaturesby Tracey Chevalier
Publisher/Year Published: Dutton Adults 2010
How my grubby hands got a hold of this book: I won this via a giveaway on Goodreads.
Why I read this book: It sounded intriguing and definitely different from anything I've read.
Rating: 4 stars--good start into my introduction of historical fiction.

My first Chevalier novel and I'm in love. I have Girl with a Pearl Earring & The Lady and the Unicorn sitting on my shelf and I cannot wait to devour those. I'm not well read in the historical fiction genre but if they read like this, I'm a fan!

The novel is about two "spinsters" who develop an unlikely friendship over their love of combing the beaches and cliffs for fossils. Both of these women, Mary Anning & Elizabeth, are social outcasts in their own respective ways and their passion for these fossils thrusts them into a "man's world." Both characters have to grapple with the gender, social, and class prejudices of the day as they try to be recognized for their discoveries and who they are as remarkable women with incredible gifts, wiles, & passion.

First, I had no idea who Mary Anning was and I am now incredibly intrigued to find out more. I love learning about obscure figures of the past. I suppose if you were really into the subject matter you might know of her but I enjoyed learning of someone I've never heard of who had a profound impact on science. I also love trues stories of people breaking through barriers and doing something extraordinary that exceeds the expectations of society.

I loved the characters of Mary & Elizabeth but felt some of the other characters fell a little flat. I forgot about some of them and wished they would have be developed a little more. I never felt bored with the repeated beachcombing scenes but I do feel perhaps some could have been cut back a little so to make room for a little more character development & dialogue to really bring the characters to life. I've heard that her characters are normally really wonderful & lively but I have nothing to compare it to. I will soon find out as I plan on reading her other novels very shortly!

I absolutely loved reading about obscure people in history. What are some of your favorite reads about obscure people in history? Or do you have any other recommendations for historical fiction novels as I haven't read too many?


  1. Right back at ya Jamie...we need to do those kinds of signings more often! I'll upload the pictures tomorrow and get them sent to everyone a.s.a.p.!

  2. This looks like it could be really good. I remember when I was a little kid my mom would read me a book about Mary Anning. It had these drawings of her in a cave digging up the Ichthyosaurs fossil. I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever heard. I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up, so it was cool to know that just one woman could dig up a whole huge monster all by herself.
    Of course, the picture book left out that she wasn't allowed into the geological society, and that only the men she sold the fossils to could publish papers on them, often without mentioning her name at all, even though they usually knew less about fossils that she did. It really depressed me later to learn just how much trouble she had. It sounds like this book covers that pretty well though, so maybe I'll check it out sometime.

  3. I've never heard of Mary Anning either, but your review really makes me want to read this book!

  4. I'm reading this in November with my book club and am SO EXCITED! Even more excited after reading your review.

  5. Emily-- That is so cool that you knew who Mary Anning was and that your mom used to read to you about her! I was so impressed by what she did for the science world and it made me so sad that she wasn't able to get the credit she deserved. The book really does a great job delving into those issues. I think this could be a good addition to your reading challenge of women authors! I think it would be great group read for the CS group because there would be so many things to discuss about it.

    Jess--It is worth the read!

    Allie-- I hope you enjoy it! I can't wait to hear what you think. I wish I could have read this with a book club! I think it could yield some interesting discussion.

  6. This one is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I loved Girl With a Pearl Earring and Virgin Blue and I'm sure I'll love this one as well. I'd never heard of Mary Anning either, will have to look her up before reading the book.
    As for recommendations of historical fiction: Pillars of the Earth was amazing (the size is intimidating, but it's so worth it), I really enjoyed the Heretic's Daughter and I'm a bit of an anglophile, so anything about Queen Elizabeth/Henry VIII will do (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen's Fool, The Lady Elizabeth).

  7. Is this the one you recommended to me? It sounds kind of amazing!

    And with HF recommendations....oh boy, I'd be rambling on for a long time. I too am an anglophile, so I wholeheartedly agree with everything that Daisy said!

  8. Ooh thanks for the recommendations ladies! Kelly--I'm going to have to scour your blog for good ones, too!

  9. Oh this one is going on my TBR! So it's historical fiction based on a real person? Interesting. I love that kind. It always makes me want to learn more about them. Wolf Hall did that for me with the Tudors.

  10. Wallace--Yeah, I did a little research on her and I am beyond fascinated! I plan on reading some non-fiction about her. She really is somebody that deserves more attention for what she contributed and how she fought so hard for her place in what was considered a man's world.

    That is honestly the kind of historical fiction I'm looking for--something that is interesting, based very much on fact and makes me want to learn more about the person or the event.


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