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

Thoughtful Readers:

  48 comments for “Remarkable Creatures

  1. February 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    What a beautiful post. You nailed it with your tablesetting. I will definitely get this book. Love Tracy Chevalier’s writing.

  2. February 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Beautiful post Mary. The book sounds wonderful!

  3. February 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Mary, I’ve long enjoyed the work of Tracy Chevalier though I haven’t read this one. It is on my list. I loved your analogy of combing the aisles of Home Goods like a fossil hunter. I sometimes feel the same way, though our Home Goods doesn’t seem to offer up many treasures. I’ve better luck at TJ and Marshall’s. Your lake side beach table is fabulous. Love the way your creative mind work. The fossil cookies are sheer genius.
    Thanks for sharing! ~ Sarah

  4. February 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    oh mary, i just burst out laughing at your own little jolt… FREAKING TWINS!!!

    how gorgeous is this setting, not to mention how i loved this book! i love the aqua… DUH! what don’t i love of yours~ and i need those napkins… and i think just about every other piece :(

    omg look at your fossil cookies! i am so impressed… i did the cats tongue cookie, yours are so fabulouso! i really enjoyed the video too, what a wonderful wonderful recreation, thanks so much for carrying on food for thought, i am always extra delighted when i have read the book and can reexperience, and taste it through your eyes~

    doesn’t a good book, coupled with the fun of doing a fft make you tingle a bit!

  5. February 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    The great thing about this post is I was so taken with the photography that I totally ignored the book! That almost never happens! Now I shall go back and read your post! Gorgeous as always!! I especially love the first shot with the book and the starfish!

  6. Happier Than A Pig in Mud
    February 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    What an amazing table, the shell dishes are spectacular! This makes me yearn for warmer weather even more:@)

  7. Fabiola
    February 28, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    What a great post. I love your tablesetting, the colours are terrific and the plates too. The cookies look yummy and wow, you’re so talented. Everything gorgeous, as always.. that’s why I’m your follower.


  8. February 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    I thought I left a comment, but don’t see it…..anyway….I absolutely love your post – I envy you the shell dishes! the book is already in my to Read list!!!!

  9. March 1, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Your post title caught me eye. I have this book sitting in a pile next to my bed. Listening to the audio may be the way to go. I don’t see myself getting to the written version any time soon.

    I love how you speak of HomeGoods. I too scour their aisles as well. Sometimes just being there and taking it all in gives me a rush! Crazy but fun. LOL!

    Awesome table!

    – The Tablescaper

  10. March 1, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Well, Mary I admire you for all the work you put in to making these book reviews SHINE from the page. Finished my first one today:
    Had a wonderful time doing it, look forward to sharing the next one! x

  11. March 1, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I heart your tablescape. Well done. And the cookies are so cute, too.

  12. March 1, 2011 at 10:03 am

    What a lovely way of presenting your book review. This title is on my wishlist and your review has made me look forward to reading it even more. Thankyou.

  13. Pondside
    March 1, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Beautiful setting, and tempting review. I think I’ll have to start listening to books as I drive – what a good idea!

  14. March 2, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    The fossilized cookies look so cool. I love the half shell plates.

  15. March 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Beautiful shells–I love all the undersea themed tablescape items. Your pictures are beautiful. It sounds like a fascinating book.

  16. March 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Love the table decor! I live on the coast and people around here would flip over it! Those cookies look wonderful! Very neat:)

  17. March 2, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Magnificent…this oft verbose blogger is somewhat speechless. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous design and skillfully crafted book review…and for stopping by my blog. Cherry Kay

  18. March 2, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I love your reviews and I love your table. Your cookies are wonderful and the brown sugar beach is a wonderful idea.. I will certainly be sharing this idea and using it myself!

  19. March 3, 2011 at 12:34 am

    I love collecting shells, and I have found a few fossils, as well. The shell cookies are inspirational! I most definitely will read the book! Thanks for a great post.

  20. jo
    March 3, 2011 at 12:46 am

    love the fossil cookies … how fun!

  21. March 3, 2011 at 1:30 am

    Have been meaning to pick up a copy of this book – and your tablesetting is a breath of summer air to our cold and snowy northwoods.

  22. March 3, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Your tablesetting is breathtaking and post isbeautiful! The book is on my reading list.

  23. March 3, 2011 at 7:43 am

    What an interesting book to share with us! I’m quite intrigued again by your review of this book. Oh, and the table setting is amazing too! I think it definitely goes with the book. Those cookies are incredible too! :)

  24. Sue
    March 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    What a beautiful post. I love anything that reminds me of the water and your tablescape is stunning. I would be in such trouble if I lived 5 miles from HomeGoods. I only get to go when we are on one of our road trips, which means about 3 or 4 times a year and I do enough damage on those trips.

    The book sounds interesting. It isn’t my usual genre, but I’m intrigued by your review.


  25. March 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    There wasn’t anything I didn’t just absolutely love. Fabulous post.

  26. March 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for stopping by. I’m returning the favor with a visit to your charming blog. You have made a wonderful life with all the things I love too. A house on a lake is a dream, chair sitting with doggies and wine put it right on my list of faves!
    Save me a seat!!

  27. March 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Oh, for cryin’ out loud!!! This is unbelievable!!! Get all the way down with your totally bad self, woman!!! The fossils!!!!!!!!! The dishes that remind one of seashells and sea glass!!!!!!! The brown sugar sand!!!!!!! And you’ve GOTTA love that flatware!!! You’re killin’ me here!!!! Absolutely100% top notch way to go! Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!

  28. March 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm


    You are seriously amazing….

    I’m putting this book on my Amazon list….


  29. March 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    This table is such a delight, so much eye candy, I have to keep scrolling back to see what I missed. The charger plates are to die for. Your cookies are amazing!

  30. March 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I enjoyed reading this book, and I also enjoyed your representation of it here.
    Nicely done!


  31. March 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    What a beautiful post…loved the table setting and of course the sea shells and star fish. The cookies look delish and the book I will be checking out …might be up my alley.

  32. March 3, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Love the fossil cookies! I’ll have to keep this idea for when my grandson starts studying them in school – cute idea, and yours turned out wonderfully!

  33. March 3, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    What cute cookie! I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. Great pics!

  34. March 3, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I could spend an hour pouring over this magnificent tablescape. It is one of the best I’ve seen! Your attention to detail and care in putting together the sea glass dishes with the shells and brown sugar san makes this tablescape feel like I am at the beach! Just stunning.
    I will have to go back and get the cookie recipe. It looks Yumy!

  35. March 4, 2011 at 12:24 am

    What a lovely and inspiring post! As a geology major I can very much appreciate your fossil cookies. What a great and delicious way to teach children about fossils.

  36. March 4, 2011 at 8:59 am

    This is a lovely tablescape!

  37. March 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Your tablescape is tops on my list of the prettiest tablescapes I have yet seen. I love EVERYTHING! I spotted those square plates at a store and now wish I’d bought them. Those luminscent shells plates are stunning. You’ve given me some great inspiration. Will be visitng you next week.


  38. March 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    By now you know I am enchanted by your tables, but this may be my favorite. I absolutely love the watery colors which would look great in my house. And the cookies? Well, that’s just too much.

  39. March 4, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Oh my gosh! These are the most amazing cookies I’ve ever seen.

    I am enchanted by the idea of them…AND they look totally luscious!

    What an unbelievably wonderful stop on our little journey through Alphabe-Thursday’s letter “U”.

    You are just incredible.

    Thanks for sharing this link.


  40. March 5, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Your tablescape is absolutely breathtaking, as is your photography! The colors in the shell dishes are stunning. All the blue and clear glass is so evocative of water and the ocean. Love your starfish and other shells, and the fossil cookies are a great touch. Bravo! Enjoy your weekend.


  41. March 6, 2011 at 12:16 am

    love the sea stars and shell dishes….
    how lovely these in view.
    thanks for sharing.

  42. Brenda
    May 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Enjoyed this so much. Great inspiration as a hostess for a bridal shower this weekend. Pure enjoyment seeing your tablescape. Thanks!

  43. July 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    THANK YOU, I have been looking for a new book and this one will be it! Your table is perfection! You nail it every single time! I want to make these cookies too and will see if I can find SOMETHING to use to imprint with! XO, Pinky

  44. Nann from At Nann's Table
    November 18, 2011 at 3:43 am

    I need to go to bed as its SO late but I am just mesmerized by your beautiful photos, tablescapes and food. Wow!!

  45. Christina
    April 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I love your tables. I have learned a lot of where to buy those beautiful plates, decor, cups, food presentations, and etc….. In the matter of fact, I just got the Goblets from Target, they appeared to be HUGE on my 42″ round table of 4 people. I think they are about 9″ tall. They looked very nice on several of your tables in your blog. Do they seem big on your tables?

    thank you,


    Always waiting for your new tablescapes! :)

    • April 26, 2012 at 6:05 am

      Thanks Christina! My table is 48″ so not much bigger than yours… I’m probably just used to looking at them :)

  46. August 2, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Wow!! What a great post. I love your table decor, the colors are terrific and the plates too. I enjoyed this post so much. Cookies looks yummy. I want to make these cookies too. Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

  47. Camilyn Morrison
    November 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Where did you purchase all your shell plates LOVE IT!??

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