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Galley Cat Reviews February 2010

Galley Cat Reviews February 2010

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Published by galleycat
The February 2010 Edition of GalleyCat Reviews, the literary criticism arm of galleycat.com.
The February 2010 Edition of GalleyCat Reviews, the literary criticism arm of galleycat.com.

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Published by: galleycat on Feb 26, 2010
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03/01/2010

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Welcome to GalleyCat Reviews
GalleyCat Reviewswill feature daily book review content, including 300-500 word bookreviews, excerpted book reviews from select review outlets, and curated posts linking tothe best book reviews on the web. The reviews will be written by a mix of professionalreviewers and passionate readers in the GalleyCat community.There will be more surprises this week as we unveil our rapidly growing book reviewdirectory and reveal the first publication to excerpt content on GalleyCat Reviews. As theprogram grows over the next few months, we will update the information on this FAQpage to include new developments.If you are a publicist looking to submit books to GalleyCat reviews, please email yourpitches tothis new email address. We are accepting pitches for new books in any genre,but we will only be able to review a fraction of the suggested titles.
 
"Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier
Reviewed byClea Simon Read more about GalleyCat Reviews 
Tracy Chevalier
may never recapture the commercial success of her 1999breakthrough, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," but over the subsequent threenovels, she’s found her métier. Her new "Remarkable Creatures" dabblesin science, rather than art, and there' precious little of the sex and romancethat gave "Pearl Earring" its kick.But in this new work, based on historical figures in early 19th century England, she hascreated a vivid and stirring portrait of a friendship--as two women from very differentworlds find themselves and each other while hunting fossils."Remarkable Creatures" doesn't start out with a friendship. In fact, both these charactersare initially settled on their isolation. A survivor of a lightning strike, working class MaryAnning has always been an oddity to her neighbors in the seaside village of Lyme Regis.Part of what sets her apart is her ability to find "curies," or fossils, along the shore, andafter her father dies, it's these curiosities--sold for a penny a piece--that keep her familyfrom the workhouse. Elizabeth Philpot, the book's other narrator, arrives in this modestresort destination determined to make her way alone.As she did somewhat clumsily in her 1997 debut "The Virgin Blue" and much moresuccessfully in 2001's "Falling Angels," Chevalier depicts the tenacity of femalefriendship during difficult times. The two narrators of "Remarkable Creatures" areseparated by birth and education, and their relationship begins with all the expectedprejudices.Elizabeth and her two unmarried sisters are settled there to live in reduced but respectablegentility after their brother marries and takes over the family's London house. While heryoungest sister Margaret, still hoping to marry, goes to assemblies, and Louise takes togardening, Elizabeth discovers fossil hunting.A self-possessed bluestocking, she finds a substitute for her beloved British Museum infreshly unearthed ammonites and belemnites. After meeting Mary on the beach, sheintroduces her to the studies of early anatomists and evolutionary theorists like GeorgesCuvier – ultimately making the young fossil hunter known to Cuvier and his colleagues,as well.These early assumptions help delineate their voices, but as their narratives alternateChevalier also captures subtler differences in her protagonists, from their outlooks on lifeto their evolving impressions of each other. It's Mary's skill--her ability to see fossils in
 
the rocks--that wins Elizabeth over first, but when Elizabeth begins to use her advantagesto help Mary--negotiating with quarrymen to extract a large specimen--the two edgetoward equality.Chevalier has spiced up what is known about the actual Anning, adding a slight touch of romance and, thus, conflict, as well as a sweet ending. But the small dab of sentimentalitydoesn't deter from this novel's own remarkable creatures: three-dimensional characters,transcending their place and time.
Clea Simon
's sixth mystery, "Grey Matters" will be published in March bySevern House. She can be found online at cleasimon.com 

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