From Tracy Chevalier's website:
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 that ichthyosaur shakes the scientific community and leads to new ways of thinking about the creation of the world.
Working in an arena dominated by middle-class men, however, Mary finds herself out of step with her working-class background. In danger of being an outcast in her community, she takes solace in an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, a prickly London spinster with her own passion for fossils.
The strong bond between Mary and Elizabeth sees them through struggles with poverty, rivalry and ostracism, as well as the physical dangers of their chosen obsession. It reminds us that friendship can outlast storms and landslides, anger and and jealousy.
Based on the true history of Mary Anning, a 19th century woman who became renowned as a 'fossilist', Remarkable Creatures recounts the story behind her discovery of fossils washed up on the shores of Lyme Regis, a village in England, and the friendship which develops between Mary and the spinster Elizabeth Philpot.
I enjoyed this book very much. The friendship between the two women showed how class structure and status, as well as gender, affected what a woman could and could not do in polite society during the 1800's. I could feel the frustration, along with the characters, of not being taken seriously by the established norms of the day. I also enjoyed following Mary as she made amazing discoveries along the beaches of Lyme Regis. Having majored in geology at university, I especially enjoyed recognizing the familiar names of some of the creatures Mary Anning picked up and was also taken aback when a very familiar name from the world of geology popped up on the page.