Sunday, December 27, 2009

Welcome to the Post Christmas Book Binge

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas, each in your own way. Is it wrong? I actually enjoy the days after Christmas leading up to New Year better than Christmas itself. Having visited both sides of the family, cooked and eaten, given and received presents, yada, yada, yada, I find this time of year restful and enjoyable.

The kids have some new presents to amuse themselves with, my husband is at home because his work shuts down at this time of year, and I GOT SOME BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS! Aaaaah, time to relax and read!

I have a little bit of a backlog of reviews from books I have read lately, (why oh why is it so easy to motivate myself to read a book, and so hard to motivate myself to write a review?) so I'll get on with it so I can bury my head in a book.
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.

Bought for a friend for her birthday, and borrowed back.

**** "Interesting and enjoyable!"

From the back cover: "From the moment she's struch by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is marked for greatness. When she uncovers fossils of unknown creatures in the cliffs near her home, she sets the scientific world alight, challenging ideas about the world's creation and stimulating debate over our origins. This is an arena dominated by men but luckily Mary finds and unlikely champion in prickly, intelligent Elizabeth Philpot. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty and barely suppressed envy. Despite their defferences in age and background, Mary and Elizabeth discover that, in struggling for recognition, friendship is their strongest weapon."

This book is set in the Austen era, and is essentially the tale of two women. Mary Anning is the daughter of a cabinet maker who is deeply in debt and dies young. Her family's only form of income is the money they make from the sale of "curies", fossils that Mary finds on the beach at Lyme Regis. Visitors from London will pay in pennies, or sometimes even shillings for these curiosities. The family lives hand to mouth, always on the brink of starvation, and constantly have the fear of being sent to the workhouse hanging over their heads.

Mary has an instinctive abilty to find fossils. She is well practiced in the art of cleaning them and displaying them to their best advantage, but even more, she has a talent for reconstructing the skeletons of mysterious and unknown creatures. Her finds begin to catch the attention of gentlemen for whom the collection and display of fossils is their latest hobby, and eventually they come to the attention of the greatest scientific names of the time. Some of her finds are still on display today.

Elizabeth Philpot is one of three spinster sisters who are sent to live in a small cottage in Lyme Regis with their one servant and their one hundred and fifty pounds a year when it becomes apparent that they will not marry. They live modestly in their diminished surroundings, with less society than they are used to in London, and to their credit they find ways to quietly fill their days. Elizabeth has a great interest in natural science, and takes to scouring the beach for fossil fish, in which she has a particular interest. But upon witnessing the incredible discoveries that Mary Anning makes, she begins to question her ideas about God's creation. Why would God create animals, only to allow them to die out? If God created the earth, just as it is today, how did the animal bones get inside the rocks? And how could the earth possibly be only 6000 years old?

This book is a work of fiction, but is based on read people and real events. Because I had already read some popular science that dealt with scientific thought at this time, I could really appreciate the events as they unfolded. But I think a reader with no previous scientific knowledge would still enjoy this story.



Nina said...

Sounds like a interesting read and i do adore the cover. :)

Fiona said...

You're right, the cover is gorgeous.