Read for book club, I was interested in “Remarkable Creatures” because the author, Tracy Chevalier, also wrote “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” To be honest, I haven’t read that book, but I did hear an interview on NPR with Chevalier, where she spoke about “Girl” and how the idea turned into a novel. That was interesting enough to make me want to read one of her novels.
This book was … ok. I think some people would really enjoy it, but it just wasn’t my type of book. Set in a beach town in the UK, Elizabeth Philpot and her two sisters move to a small cottage in Lyme Regis after a fourth sister gets married. Their brother doesn’t have enough left for dowry for these three, so they move to the country. It’s here that Elizabeth meets Mary Anning, a girl who was struck by lightening as a child. This is significant because Mary is skilled at spotting fossils on the beach–and many believe it’s because she was struck by lightening.
The book follows Elizabeth and Mary as Mary grows up, and how finding fossils changes both of their lives. Chevalier does a fantastic job of weaving real people and real events into a fictional story. There is a note at the back of the book about who and what was real versus what she created for the sake of story. That was almost more interesting to me.
The big reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I think other people might is that the story centers around Mary falling in love with the wrong man. This changes her relationship with Elizabeth, and leads to the big climax of the novel. I am not one for most love stories, and I don’t really enjoy books where women with successful, happy lives nearly lose everything because of a man. Yes, I realize this is appropriate for the era of the novel. Yes, I realize it happens in life. I just don’t like reading about it.
So, if that doesn’t bother you, it’s a good book. If you aren’t interested in love stories, this might not be the novel for you.