Remarkable creatures

I have tended to like Tracy Chevalier books.  She writes excellent historical fiction, and this is no exception.  She researches her subject manner and while she certainly does take some liberties (as do most people who write historical fiction), it makes sense (which sometimes – maybe most of the time – happens with people who write historical fiction).

The idea of two women, in Regency England, becoming known as paleontologists, is amazing.  I think that the title is not only referring to the “creatures” that they discover on the coastal town of Lyme Regis, but to themselves.  It is remarkable that “creatures” (as women could be considered at that time) make all these discoveries – but the men seem to take all the credit for the discovery, even if they were the ones who were sold the fossils and the bones.  Not only were they women, but one (Mary Anning) was an uneducated girl and a teenager when most of these discoveries were made.  What else is remarkable is that Elizabeth Philpot (the other protagonist) who is upper middle class befriended a preteenage girl from a class lower than herself, and who was also seen as an outsider because her family were dissenters (Christians who separated from the Church of England – you were subject to legal discrimination if you were a dissenter).

It is too bad that it took so long for both Elizabeth and Mary to have recognization for their amazing discoveries of fossils that had not been discovered before.  The first time they were mentioned was in 1834 – but had made their first discovery in 1811.  It is thanks to Louis Agassiz that we know the names of these two women who made many important discoveries.  Otherwise, their names would most likely be lost forever.


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