If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Remarkable Creatures

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the benefits of belonging to book clubs is reading books you’ve never heard of and finding ones that are wonderful like Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. The book is historical fiction based on the real life of Mary Anning, a poor girl with very little education, who with her father and brother looked for fossils to sell in Lyme Regis on the southern shore of England. Her father was a cabinet maker, and the fossils they found brought in more money for their impoverished family. She was born in 1799 and lived until 1847 when she died of breast cancer.
A photo of Mary Anning

From the blurb on the back of the book: “From the moment she’s struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is different. Though poor and uneducated, she learns on the windswept fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast that she has a unique gift.” (In the book, she claims to have “‘the eye’” because she sees fossils both on the beach and in the cliffs that others overlook.)

Mary' helped other fossil hunters & scientists who came.

“When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight with both admiration and controversy.”  The priests and bishops refused to believe these fossils were from further back than six thousand years ago, and yet scientists knew the rocks dated back much further than that.

Too bad there was an age limit on marriage.

Another main character in the book is Elizabeth Philpot, one of three spinster sisters from the middle-class, a much higher level than the very poor Anning family. Although, her sisters and brother frowned on her searching for fossils along the shore, she was fascinated by fish fossils and collected them. She knew she was too old to marry, because in those days, one was considered already beyond marrying age by the time they were in their mid-twenties. So she became unique in her own way ignoring what other people thought. Elizabeth met and befriended Mary Anning as they searched for fossils. She outlived Mary dying at the age of 1857 at the age of seventy-eight.

The kind of fossils Elizabeth saved.

As friends Elizabeth helped Mary get recognized by scientists even though many prominent scientists, like the famous French anatomist Georges Cuvier, refused to believe any woman, especially a poor barely literate young woman could discover fossils of previously undiscovered creatures from what would become known as the Jurassic period.

I have no idea what kind of creature this is.

Mary found the first specimen of ichthyosaurus sometime between 1809 and 1811 when she was only ten to twelve years old. Perhaps her most important find, from a scientific point of view, was the first plesiosaur.

After Mary found fossils many flocked to look for them.

“In 1824, Lady Harriet Sivester, the widow of the former Recorder of the City of London, wrote in her diary after visiting Mary Anning,  “. . .the extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved . . . It is certainly a wonderful instance of divine favour – that this poor, ignorant girl should be so blessed, for by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.”
Mary Anning's & Elizabeth's town of Lyne Regis.

Although the book is historical fiction, Tracy Chevalier created the conversations and thoughts of the characters it made the characters come alive. The reader can only believe that’s what they could have said and thought, and facts about the real characters would back this up. Also, although it wasn’t in the book, Jane Austin visited the town and had the Anning father make something for her. Whether or not she talked with Mary Anning is unknown. The fictional part didn’t cover her later life when she became a well-known authority, but more the earlier years when no one wanted to give a girl or woman credit for being a scientist.
Mary looking at her finds in a museum.

When my book club members discussed this book last week, everyone found it quite interesting and all were glad they had read it, and if they hadn’t quite finished it, they were going home to finish the book.  As for me, I was interested enough to do some more research on Mary Anning.

Tracy Chevalier wrote a postscript at the back of the book in which she gave more facts about Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, and other characters that really existed. In three and a half pages she wrote about what happened to the characters after the book ended.

The excerpt from Lady Silvester’s diary was found at: www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/anning.html/
At the end of the article, it refers to various biographies of Mary Anning, who lived from 1799 to 1847) I highly recommend this book.

Museum visitors today looking at her finds.

Have you ever heard of Mary Anning?

What other woman have you admired that had to fight because she was a woman in what was considered a man’s world?


Julie Tollefson said...

Fascinating! I've never heard of Mary Anning, but now I'm going to look her up. The novel sounds interesting, too. Thanks for sharing here.

Grace Topping said...

Thank you, Gloria, for bringing this book to our attention. It is good to see the accomplishments of Mary Anning brought to light.

Gloria Alden said...

Julie, I didn't remember hearing of her, either. It was an interesting novel and brought
much to light on how little women had control of their life. I found it interesting that
Jane Austin visited the town and had Mary's father build something for her. She must have
met Mary, too.

Grace, I felt the same way when I read the book. It was the religious bishops and preachers
who were really against her because they didn't believe the world was older than 6000 years.

Shari Randall said...

My book club read this book - it was wonderful! What an exceptional person Mary Anning was to persist in her passion despite all the roadblocks her society threw in her way. The book made me think of how far women have come and still have to go.

Margaret Turkevich said...

fascinating! I remember the fossil hunting fiancé in Lyme Regis in The French Lieutenant's Woman. I'm curious to visit the place, see the gardens, and learn more about Mary Anning.

I've always admired and been curious to learn more about Maria Mitchell, the 19th c. Nantucket astronomer who discovered a comet.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I'm glad you had a chance to read this, too. You're right women have come a long way, but still have a ways to go.

Margaret, I would love to go there to visit, too. I don't remember Maria Mitchell. I'd like to learn more about her.

Kait said...

I have never heard of her. What a wonderful story. Can you imagine the pride she must have felt and the huge prejudice she was up against. Oh my.