Autumn Reading: ‘Remarkable Creatures’ by Tracy Chevalier
In the first flush of excitement at being out of graduate school, I read a good deal of unabashedly fluffy stuff this past autumn. I’ll be posting reviewlets of these books for the next few weeks.
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is a lot like every other Chevalier book: it’s short, it’s an easy read, and it does a very good job of immersing itself in a given time period to explore some alternate side of something already well known. The Girl with the Pearl Earring did this with Vermeer and the 17th-century Netherlands. Remarkable Creatures does the same with 19th-century paleontology/fossilology, telling the story of Mary Anning, a historic figure of early paleontology often neglected on account of her gender.
The story itself is interesting and not a part of history with which I was particularly familiar prior to reading the book, which always creates a pleasant reading of discovery. Chevalier has a light style that makes the read go quickly and pleasantly and she is also gifted in her abilities to wonderfully recreate a time and place, but, overall, the book proved unmemorable. It’s strongest strength was its gently feminist sensibilities, but even that didn’t go too far, mainly leaving anything remotely stirring for later generations, like Chevalier herself who makes her most flamboyantly feminist point by writing the book in the first place.
On the whole, I wouldn’t warn people against reading it, but it wasn’t something I’d urge on anyone either. If you have some time to kill and want something light, but a little smarter than your average fluff book, Remarkable Creatures will fit the bill and teach you a little something, too.