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:
Marty at A Stroll Thru Life for Tabletop Tuesday
Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ this week’s letter is U~ for an Uneducated girl with a Unique gift Uncovers an Unusual fossilized skeleton
Susan for Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday
What a beautiful post. You nailed it with your tablesetting. I will definitely get this book. Love Tracy Chevalier’s writing.
Beautiful post Mary. The book sounds wonderful!
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
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!
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!
What an amazing table, the shell dishes are spectacular! This makes me yearn for warmer weather even more:@)
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.
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!!!!
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!
– The Tablescaper
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
I heart your tablescape. Well done. And the cookies are so cute, too.
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.
Beautiful setting, and tempting review. I think I’ll have to start listening to books as I drive – what a good idea!
The fossilized cookies look so cool. I love the half shell plates.
Beautiful shells–I love all the undersea themed tablescape items. Your pictures are beautiful. It sounds like a fascinating book.
Love the table decor! I live on the coast and people around here would flip over it! Those cookies look wonderful! Very neat:)
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
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!
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.
love the fossil cookies … how fun!
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.
Your tablesetting is breathtaking and post isbeautiful! The book is on my reading list.
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! :)
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.
There wasn’t anything I didn’t just absolutely love. Fabulous post.
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!!
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!!!!!!!!!
You are seriously amazing….
I’m putting this book on my Amazon list….
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!
I enjoyed reading this book, and I also enjoyed your representation of it here.
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.
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!
What cute cookie! I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. Great pics!
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!
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.
This is a lovely tablescape!
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.
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.
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.
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.
love the sea stars and shell dishes….
how lovely these in view.
thanks for sharing.
Enjoyed this so much. Great inspiration as a hostess for a bridal shower this weekend. Pure enjoyment seeing your tablescape. Thanks!
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
I need to go to bed as its SO late but I am just mesmerized by your beautiful photos, tablescapes and food. Wow!!
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?
Always waiting for your new tablescapes! :)
Thanks Christina! My table is 48″ so not much bigger than yours… I’m probably just used to looking at them :)
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. :)
Where did you purchase all your shell plates LOVE IT!??