Book Review by Cos Barnes
At first, I was not too interested in this book, which was written by the author of “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” which I had enjoyed reading. I had little interest in fossils, either hunting for them or reading about people who do. However, we can always learn something new, and in this book I did.
Set in the early 1800s on the cliffs of the south coast of England, the book describes at great length, Mary Anning, a poor, uneducated and rather strange young woman who was hit by lightning as a baby. Mary has the gift for spotting fossils no one else can see. To make a livelihood for her family, she cleans them and prepares them for sale or display. Daily, she scours the cliffs near her home, looking for specimens. One day, she and her brother hit the jackpot — they uncovered the fossilized skull of an unknown animal, which they identified as a crocodile although it had a huge bulbous eye. This discovery leads to some fame and fortune for Mary, along with some romance, although she was treading in male-dominated waters and was barred from the academic community, who considered themselves superior to her.
Running interference for her is a new friend, Elizabeth Philpott, a spinster newly come to Lyme Regis from London and who shares her interest in searching the beaches for fossils. Although Elizabeth, a collector of fish fossils, is somewhat of a prude, the two have their interests in common. Although they clash over several things, they eventually realize their friendship is stronger than the pettiness of society.
You will be captivated by the picture of the two on the front cover of the book.