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Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures ****.*

by Tracy Chevalier

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“From the moment she’s struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is different. Though poor and uneducated, she discovers on the windswept beaches of the English coast that she has a unique gift:  “the eye” to spot fossils no one else can see. When Mary uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious fathers on edge, the townspeople to gossip—and the scientific world alight. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is barred from the academic community; as a young woman with uncommon interest, she is suspected of sinful behavior. Nature is a threat, throwing bitter cold, storms, and landslips at her. And when she falls in love, it is with an impossible man.”

“Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster recently exiled from London, who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy. Ultimately, in the struggle to be recognized in the wider world, Mary and Elizabeth discover that friendship is their greatest ally.”

I learned about this book last year, when Jain shared her excellent review ~ I was intrigued and it has been on my very LONG list to read ever since. I downloaded the audio version from Audible to listen to in the car, when I read a review of the audio performance~ the narration and accents were excellent, which made the story highly enjoyable and even more compelling.

 “Charlotte Parry creates a gutsy but vulnerable Mary while Susan Lyons gives us a proper and ladylike Elizabeth. Together, they create an original and moving duet of unlikely friendship in this impeccable production.” ~B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine    ~AudioFile Magazine

I find myself combing the aisles for treasures at Home Goods like a fossil hunter on a weekly basis, which I like to blame on the five mile proximity to my house. I admit I feel the same “little jolt” as Mary Anning  does, whenever I discover something there I can’t leave without :-)

My scouring led me to glass shell dishes on a recent visit, so instead of the windswept beaches off the English coast, I am lakeside with a tabletop shell strewn beach for this review.

“Lightning has struck me all my life.

 Just once it was real.”

“I feel an echo of the lightning each time I find a fossil, a little jolt that says, ‘Yes, Mary Anning, you are different from all the rocks on the beach.’ That is why I am a hunter:  to feel that bolt of lightning and that difference every day.”

“To me, looking for curies is like looking for a four-leaf clover:  It’s not how hard you look, but how something will appear different. My eyes will brush over a patch of clover, and I’ll see 3, 3. 3. 3. 4, 3, 3. The four leaves just pop out at me. Same with curies: I’ll wander here and there along the beach, letting my eyes drift over stones without thinking, and out will jump the straight lines of a bellie, or the stripy marks and curve of an ammo, or the grain of bone against the smooth flint. Its pattern stands out when everything else is a jumble.”

“As I stepped between two stones, I noticed and odd pebble decorated with a striped pattern. I bent over and picked it up—the first of thousands of times I would do so in my life. It was spiral-shaped with ridges at even intervals around the spine, and it looked like a snake curled in on itself, the tip of the tail in the center. Its regular patter was so pleasing to the eye that I felt I must keep it, thought I had no idea what it was. I only knew that it could not be a pebble.”

I felt another “little jolt” when I found this recipe for Fossil Cookies for Food for Thought, in a back issue of Martha Stewart Living, when I was going through it one last time before recycling it ~

 My Fossil Cookies are on served a beach of brown sugar in a watery blue bowl.

A recipe to satisfy hungry paleontologists can be found here :-)

I could not find the “food safe” plastic insects recommended linked in the recipe. I used creatures I found from Dollar Tree that I washed well & dusted with flour, before leaving their skeletal impressions in my cookie dough :-)

“It made me feel like I was peering through a window into a deep past where such creatures lurked.”

“My life led up to that moment, then led away again, like the tide making its highest mark on the beach and then retreating.”

“So we continued, arm in arm along the beach, talking until at last we had no more to say, like a storm that blows itself out, and our eyes dropped to the ground, where the curies were waiting for us to find them.”

“Remarkable Creatures is an inspiring novel of how one woman’s gift transcends class and social prejudice to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, it is a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.”

Recycled Glass Dishes, Square Chargers & Shell Dishes~ Home Goods

Napkins~ Pottery Barn

Napkin Rings~ Kohl’s

Beaded Placemats  & Goblets~ Target

Flatware~ World Market

Thanks for your visit & to my hostesses, I’m joining:

For more Food for Thought,  click on the book titles below to read more reviews by other

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