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Remarkable Creatures

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  48,280 ratings  ·  5,134 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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Karen If the 12 year old is interested in fossils, possibly. I would have enjoyed it at that age, although some of the interactions might be over her/his he…moreIf the 12 year old is interested in fossils, possibly. I would have enjoyed it at that age, although some of the interactions might be over her/his head. No overt sexual instances (one that is mostly innuendo), language or violence.(less)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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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 o
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 somewhat loosely 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 o
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
Feb 13, 2015 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
Jan 14, 2013 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
da AL
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gorgeously written story about fossils and friendship. Its rare gentleness makes it truly beautiful. The two audiobook narrators do an incredible job as well.
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.
Joy D
Historical fiction based on the lives of real people, amateur paleontologists Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning, in the early 1800s in Lyme Regis, England. Elizabeth is an educated lady who has relocated from London, and Mary is a working-class daughter of an impoverished cabinet maker. They become unlikely friends, bonding over their love of fossils and searching for them by the sea. When Mary unearths a skeleton of what appears to be a large crocodile, it ultimately leads to their interaction ...more
Sara (taking a break)
Mary Anning was one of those women in history who was not appreciated in her time and was given little or no credit for her remarkable talents. She was an uneducated person with a unique talent for finding prehistoric bones of extinct creatures in the cliffs around her home in Lyme. Her friend, and someone who did indeed recognize Mary’s skills, was Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster with higher rank in society and a much higher education level. Together, they contributed greatly to the scientific kn ...more
Jul 24, 2010 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
Jan 14, 2010 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 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
9/8/21- The other night, we watched Ammonite, which I understood to be the film of the book. I thought it was a travesty of both the book and of Mary Anning’s life. I now know that it’s not based on the book which is a relief but also sad because it’s unlikely that a movie will be made of the book.

Mary Anning is a woman. She is a spare part. Thus speaks Lord Henley in this excellent fictional account of Mary Anning’s life, the early days of commercialised fossil hunting, and the popularisation a
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
Mary Anning, the daughter of a cabinet-maker and fossil collector in Lyme Regis, was responsible for finding many Jurassic age creatures, unknown to science before. Elizabeth Philpot, who came from a completely different social background and was at least twenty years Mary’s senior, but shared her interest in fossils (herself she collected fish fossils) befriended her and the two who collected fossils together made their fair share of contributions to science. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Cheva ...more
Mar 06, 2015 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
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
This makes me so sad. I really and truly thought I was going to adore this book. I love the subject matter, but this book is so stiff and feels like a slightly (and I mean very slightly) more animate version of a Wikipedia entry on Mary Anning.
Wanda Pedersen
I’ve just recently read a non-fiction book about Mary Anning (The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World by Shelley Emling) and I was anxious to read this fictional account of Anning’s life before the details had faded too much in my mind. Chevalier sticks to the big, important details, but takes the liberty that those who write fiction often do, to write in drama and make a better story.

It’s always a tricky business, writing fiction about real his
Oct 17, 2010 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
During the covid-19 shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, I have tried to make a concerted effort to clean-up some of my to-read pile (or rather and more to the point to thin out a bit my simply humungous to-read mountain) and in particular to review and then to finally mark as "read" at least some of the very many books I perused either before joining Goodreads in 2009 or after joining Goodreads but for which I have for various reasons never bothered to post a review (and which all still do appear ...more
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it
3★ Updated July 2016
It was better written than I'd given it credit for originally, 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 t
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Fascinating story that blends actual people and events in a work of fiction.

Until this story, I had no idea who Mary Anning or Elizabeth Philpot were and how important their work was in the discovery of prehistoric creatures. Their discoveries at the beginning of the 19th century came at the time when many tried to explain or reconcile geology with their religious beliefs when very idea of extinction was anathema because it suggested that God was imperfect. What are these creatures and why don’
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mary Anning was a most remarkable woman from the moment she was struck by lightning as a baby and survived. She was certainly different, spending her time as a child with her father searching for fossils along the English seacoast around the town of Lyme Regis in the early 19th Century. She was poor and uneducated as a working-class girl, but she had "the eye," the talent to spot fossils that no one else could see. Her family was able to make a small business selling Mary's fossils, all marine a ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the first place, I wanted to read this book because it handled about Mary Anning and her pioneering role in discovering and her knowledge in finding fossiles and some pre-historic fossilised animal skeletons in the nearness of Lyme Regis, England. It gave a good and quite truthful (however romanticised) release about her life, her friendship with Elizabeth Philpot and her findings. It also gave a good picture of the knowledge of geologists about fossils and fossilised skeletons. How much we h ...more
Strong 4.5 rating . First book I have read by this author , but not the last . Started it dubious , but ended up satisfied and even enchanted . On the verge of historical fiction .

Update 12/21/20 : I upgraded this book to a 5-star from a 4 because it continues to come up in conversation when talking about historical fiction. It isn't on the verge, it is historical fiction. I have also recommended this book too much to keep it at 4-stars. I'm afraid it remains in my category of 'almost-favorite'

"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 interview w
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 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 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
Jan 13, 2011 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
Nov 07, 2010 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
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was my second read of this book and it is excellent. It is the story of Mary Anning and her friend, Elizabeth Philpott. As well as being about women fighting for recognition in a scientific field, it addresses the schism created in Christianity by the discovery of fossilised dinosaur skeletons. This was the era of Darwin too. Were man and woman created in one day, the animals? The idea that animals could become extinct challenged the beliefs of the day that God’s work could be considered im ...more
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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.


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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.” 33 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.'
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