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Remarkable Creatures

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  32,240 Ratings  ·  3,726 Reviews
In 1810, a sister and brother uncover the fossilized skull of an unknown animal in the cliffs on the south coast of England. With its long snout and prominent teeth, it might be a crocodile – except that it has a huge, bulbous eye.

Remarkable Creatures is the story of Mary Anning, who has a talent for finding fossils, and whose discovery of ancient marine reptiles such as t
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 24th 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (first published 2009)
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Joan Absolutely. This is the story of how the fossil collecting business helped shape our understanding of evolution. A perfect starting place for a…moreAbsolutely. This is the story of how the fossil collecting business helped shape our understanding of evolution. A perfect starting place for a discussion on how breakthroughs can be made from observation and data collection.(less)

Community Reviews

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Some of my favorite things about Remarkable Creatures:

1) Bathing machines!

2) Fossils, of course.

3) A regency era book about friendship between two women, rather than the marriage of some rehabilitated rake and some nubile.

4) Elizabeth's characterization of people based upon what feature they "lead" with - eyes, hair, hands.

5) Fossils!

I enjoyed this book a lot more after I came across some information about who Mary Anning really was. At first, I did not realize this was based on the stories of
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I now know more than I ever expected to about fossil-collecting by English women during the Regency period.


This historical novel is based on several people who actually lived, and either hunted or collected fossils, in England in the early 1800s. It alternates between the viewpoints of Elizabeth Philpot, a genteel spinster in reduced circumstances who moves to Lyme Regis by the sea (a hotbed for fossil-hunters) and discovers a passion for fossils, and Mary Anning, the daughter of a destitute cab
Richard Derus
Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: A voyage of discoveries, a meeting of two remarkable women, and extraordinary time and place enrich bestselling author Tracy Chevalier's enthralling new novel

From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear that Mary Anning is marked for greatness. On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, she learns that she has "the eye"—and finds what no one else can see. When Mary uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs
Jan 14, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Another winner by Chevalier...I had never heard of Mary Anning and as I read this, it again dawned on me how many women have been erased and disappeared from history because of sexism and male prejudice during the times they lived in...Anning was a major paleontologist who was completely self taught, living in poverty, and discovered several important prehistoric fossils from the Jurassic period that challenged the conventional thinking of the time about creation, the age of the earth, and survi ...more
This is the story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, fossil collectors in England in the first half of the 19th century. Their gender and social class kept them from receiving the credit and recognition they deserved for their discoveries. Historical fiction with great characters and a very interesting subject. Tracy Chevalier is one of the best writers today in this genre.
Jul 24, 2010 Antje rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know, this book is not great literature but for some reasons I really enjoyed it and will count it to my favourite bokks. The story is about Mary Anning, who lived in Lyme Regis and since she was a girl uncovered fossils of at the time unknown creatures. Elisabeth Philpot, an educated woman from London,was forced to move to Lyme Regis with her sisters, because in the family was not enough money for all the sisters to marry. She started to hunt for fossils as well and despite their diffrent age ...more
Mar 06, 2015 BrokenTune rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"We had heard about the girl struck by lightning, for people still talked of it years later. It was one of those miracles small towns thrive on: children seeming drowned then spurting out water like a whale and reviving; men falling from cliffs and reappearing unscathed; boys run down by coaches and standing up with only a scratched cheek. Such everyday miracles knit communities together, giving them their legends to marvel at. It had never occurred to me when I first met her that Mary might be ...more
Jan 14, 2010 Chrissie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Finished: I am glad that is over! I think I chuckled maybe once. The prose was stilted. I have never run into such a bunch of miserable souls. A huge disappointment. I absolutely adored this author's book Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Through page 183: Ahhhh, I am laughing. The two main woman characters are jealous of each other, and it's quite amusing. Of course a man is invoved. Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot are two real people and the two central characters of the book. The story is told alt
Feb 13, 2015 Candi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable Creatures is a beautifully written book about two remarkable women, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. A fictional account based on real-life characters and events, Remarkable Creatures is set in the early 1800’s in the coastal town of Lyme Regis, England. Poor, uneducated Mary Anning and middle-class, London-bred Elizabeth Philpot form what is considered an unconventional friendship, due to their differing social classes, based on their love of fossils and fossil hunting. Despite my ...more
Oct 17, 2010 Ann rated it it was amazing
I wish I had read this book, or learned something about Mary Anning, before I went to London. I saw her picture and the fossils she discovered at the Natural History Museum in London without ever realizing what a remarkable accomplishment it was. She was a poor, uneducated, working class girl whose family survived by selling "curies" (curiosities), small fossils found on the beach in Lyme Regis. She finds what she considers crocodiles with fins, but are really the first pterodactyl and ichthyosa ...more

"She sells seashells" . . . .

People have been trying to wrap their heads and words about the story of Mary Anning for a long time, including Tracy Chevalier here in Remarkable Creatures.

Remarkable Creatures doesn't have the same sure hand or intricately drawn world as Girl with a Pearl Earring, but Chevalier's own curiosity in her subject can not be doubted as you can see in this Tracy Chevalier ">BBC slide show narrated by Tracy Chevalier and this Barnes and Noble Studio beach walk intervie
Jan 13, 2011 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What happens when you discover something that could change your worldview forever? Does the world stop?

No, of course not, life goes on, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Remarkable Creatures focuses on two women who search for fossils - one so she can eat, the other out of curiosity. When they find a fossil that contradicts religion's view of the origins of the earth, the practical appreciates the money and added business fame brings and the curious are concerned, dissatisfied by
I've been curious to read a Chevalier novel, but none of the subjects really appealed to me. Enter "Remarkable Creatures"--a book that I was primed to love. England (check!), Dinosaurs (check!), The Ocean (check!), The Conflict Between Science and Religion (check!), Strong Women Doing Awesome Things Despite Their Obnoxiously Patriarchal Society (check!). Too, I'd recently read some picture book biographies of Mary Anning and loved the idea of a young girl making fabulous fossil discoveries for t ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
"Remarkable creatures" is an unusual story about two English women in the XIXth century who become friends, even though they don't have anything in common. Not the same social background, one being extremely poor, the other mildly accommodated. One being a peasant who can barely write, the other cultured and refined. One being only 11 and the other 25 when they first meet. One being kind of an outcast for having outlived a lightning when just a baby, the other an "old" spinster, a woman who'll n ...more
Nov 03, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: whittemore-women
I am SO surprised that I liked this book. And I am completely FLOORED that I loved it.

When Sue said we were going to read a book about a spinster who collects fossils on an English beach in the 19th century for our next book club meeting, I was not thrilled. I kept putting it off because I had already decided that I wasn't going to like it. Well, here I am three days after I finally picked it up, and I have to say that it was a truly great read.

This is not a fast-moving story. The pace of the n
Nov 07, 2010 Kirby added it
Take one passionate writer of historical fiction and fan of strong female characters and pair her up with Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier and you will create pure bliss. I adored this book! The writing is strong and honest and suggestive of the time and I was fascinated to learn how two "spare parts" (spinster women) made such a huge difference in the late 1800s' studies of paleontology. As a passionate beach comber myself I completely understand Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot's compu ...more
Feb 18, 2015 PattyMacDotComma rated it liked it
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans; paleontology enthusiasts
3★ Updated July 2016
It was better written than I'd given it credit for, and I'd like to add this quotation to give a sense of her style.

The story opened with such promise and this description of how Mary was affected by being struck by lightning as a baby.

“The lightning killed the woman holding me, and two girls standing next to her, but I survived. They say I was a quiet, sickly child before the storm, but after it, I grew up lively and alert. I cannot say if they’re right, but the memory of
Kate Z
Nov 21, 2011 Kate Z rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had all the makings of a remarkable book: a female fossil hunter in the early 1800s whose contributions to paleontology have been overlooked; new science challenging long-held religious beliefs... As you delve into the book you realize how ground breaking the events of the novel are. If there were creatures buried in the earth that no longer lived on land that meant that God had made a mistake! Or that Genesis as they knew it didn't make sense - if God made Heaven and Earth first and t ...more
May 18, 2010 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my sister's gave me a newspaper article about this book when it was getting published. She knew that I was interested in anything about Mary Anning and wanted to make sure I would read "Remarkable Creatures".

Mary Anning was a fossil hunter in the early 1800's when scientists were just beginning to unlock the mysteries of those strange bones and fragments found on the beaches and cliffs of Lyme Regis. Elizabeth Philpot meets Mary Anning when she and her sisters moved to Lyme Regis. Mary sh
Nicole R
Women scientists are amazing. Historical women scientists are flat out mind-blowing. In 2015, science is still a man's field -- though it is definitely getting better -- and I often find myself flummoxed that I can say something in a meeting that is quickly dismissed but then an older male colleague says the same thing and he is a pioneering genius. But, imagine if this were the early 1800's and not only were I a woman, but I was uneducated and poor. It would be near impossible to make any type ...more
Georgiana 1792
Nov 27, 2010 Georgiana 1792 rated it it was amazing
Creature Notevoli: Tracy Chevalier fa l'occhiolino a Jane Austen?

Le due protagoniste, Mary Anning ed Elizabeth Philpot, due persone realmente esistite, la prima appartenente alla classe operaia, la seconda benestante, si dedicano sulla spaggia di Lyme Regis, ai primi dell''800, alla ricerca di fossili, la prima per venderli, la seconda per i suoi studi.
Ciascuna delle due espone la storia dal suo punto di vista, alternandosi nei capitoli con il proprio modo di narrare le vicende, in base al prop
Jul 02, 2011 Alison rated it it was ok
Disappointing. For a book that starts with a lightning strike, Remarkable Creatures has surprisingly little spark.

I could not quite connect with any of the characters. I felt as if I were looking at them through a window, unable to really see them or hear them, instead of being immersed in their story.

Also, Tracy Chevalier, whose previous books I've very much enjoyed, tries to pack so much into this book - religious and philosophical questions at a time when general beliefs were being upheaved
Nov 19, 2013 Chatterjak rated it liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable & very interesting. Great to see over-looked historical figures (in this case a working class woman) having their story told, and so well. Made me want to go find out more about the subject. I thought it conveyed the social mores of the time very effectively too. Fantastic fossil-hunting fiction! It's a difficult balance fictionalising fact, but I thought she accomplished this well, made an entertaining story without taking too many liberties!
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is a quiet reflective fictionalized story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two very different women of different social backgrounds who shared a passion for fossil hunting at the turn of the century. Chevalier gives a voice to these mostly unknown women whose contributions added greatly to the study of extinct animals, paleontology, in a time when men did not recognize a woman’s skill nor expertise, and had no qualms about stealing both the fossils an ...more
Pierre Menard
Jul 19, 2014 Pierre Menard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Who combs the beach looking for seashells.
Recommended to Pierre by: Roberta
Shelves: us-literature
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
I loved this book so much I didn't want it to end.

Based on the real-life characters of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot in the early 19th century, this is a story of two pioneering women in the coastal town of Lyme Regis who discover some of the most amazing fossils ever found and who influence scientific thinking around the possiblility that extinction may exist and who also discovered the fossils of previously unknown prehistoric animals. So little is known about these characters becuase of
Feb 04, 2011 J.Elle rated it it was ok
The only reason I soldiered through this was because it was written by the same author who wrote Girl with a Pearl Earring. Sadly, I did not enjoy this book nearly as much. Elizabeth Philpot is forced to move to a small sea-side town with her two sisters. There they settle into a spinsterish existence. Elizabeth finds herself drawn to searching for fossils along the water’s edge. She ends up meeting young Mary who has grown up searching for fossils. They forge an unlikely friendship. Eventually, ...more
Jan 15, 2010 Tigger rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Remarkable Creatures is about the stories of two women (both actual historical figures) who live in a small town by the English seaside and share a passion for finding fossils - Elizabeth Philpot, a genteel if not very wealthy spinster, and Mary, a poor working girl whose family struggles to survive.
The book has many wonderful elements and delves into a fascinating piece of early scientific history, as scientists sought to understand the fossils they were finding and what they meant for their u
Mar 23, 2010 Carol rated it it was amazing
Read a review on this one and think I will like it. I love hunting for archeological finds and this one is about two women who hunt them together. Tracy Chevalier was browsing a museum on the south coast of England and saw that specimens of fossils were found by this woman and built a fictional story around what her life might have been like.
I adored Chevalier's Girl With A Pearl Earring so I'm hoping this comes even close.
Fifty pages in and hooked.The feeling I have as I read this book is sim
Oct 28, 2012 Anastasia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-2013
Remarkable Creatures è una bevuta tranquilla, senza frizzanterie dentro, senza miscele spettacolari, anzi, direi che è semplice acqua fresca. Ma neanche fresca, di quelle dalla bottiglia lasciate fuori dal frigo da un po'.
Direi che non è malaccio e allo stesso tempo non è niente di che: una lettura leggera con introduzioni di personaggi storici molto interessanti.
Ho avuto l'impressione - non ho letto nient'altro della Chevalier, poi non so - che per questa volta Tracy si fosse rilassata, scrive
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19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Nerdy. Spent a lot of time lying on my bed reading. Favorite authors back then: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander. Book I would have taken to a desert island: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

More about Tracy Chevalier...

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“We say very little, for we do not need to. We are silent together, each in her own world, knowing the other is just at her back.” 23 likes
“What do you believe, Aunt Elizabeth?'
'I believe. . . I am comfortable with reading the Bible figuratively rather than literally. For instance, I think the six days in Genesis are not literal days, but different periods of creation, so that it took many thousands --- or hundreds of thousands of years --- to create. It does not demean God; it simply gives Him more time to build this extraordinary world.'
'And the ichthyosaurus and plesiosaurus?'
'They are creatures from long, long ago. They remind us that the world is changing. Of course it is. I can see it change when there are landslips at Lyme that alter the shoreline. It changes when there are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and floods. And why shouldn't it?”
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