Tracy Chevalier is an artist. The way that she uses language in her novels is classic. I would not be surprised if people were still reading her books one hundred years from now. Chevalier brings a whole new level to historical fiction. Part of what makes her stand out is how well she is able to make characters come to life. When I read one of her novels I feel like I am reading something substantial. In fact, I refer to her works as my ‘dark chocolate’. It is so good that I need to savor it. That being said, I just finished reading “Remarkable Creatures” by Tracy Chevalier.
“Remarkable Creatures” follows two characters and the relationship that develops between them from their mutual attraction to fossil hunting. Mary Anning is a child when she meets Elizabeth Philpot and though the two are from different generations and different classes, they become close friends. The kind of friends that few every experience—the kind of friend that you can be with without talking about every little thing, the two are content to just be in each other’s company while hunting for fossils in the small town of Lyme, England.
Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot experience a fair amount of drama both individually and between the two of them. Chevalier takes events that would seem ordinary to the outsider and makes them important through making the reader attached to Mary and Elizabeth.
Most of the characters in “Remarkable Creatures” are based off of real people. Mary Anning was a real person who helped make some of the most important scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century. Elizabeth Philpot was also a real person. Also, the majority of the men that make appearances throughout the novel are based off of real people including Lieutenant Colonel Thomas James Birch and William Buckland. There is a different sort of thrill coming from reading a historical fiction. While you go into the novel knowing that not everything is true, the bones of the novel are. Chevalier provides a peek into the past with her extraordinary ability to tell stories.
Would I recommend this book? Most definitely, Chevalier is an exquisite author and I believe anyone who enjoys reading would find themselves absorbed by this novel. I have read most of her works and would recommend them all. To date, “The Virgin Blue” remains my favorite of her novels.