I haven’t written any book reviews in a while, so I thought I’d tell you about two books I read last month, before I have to return one to the library. That one was called Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. A friend told me about it at lunch one day. It’s set in the 19th century on the English coast and is about two amateur female archaeologists. Elizabeth is one of three sisters who all moved to the shore (Lyme Regis) after loosing their chances, I suppose, of marrying. The other, Mary, is a poor girl who lives with her mother and brother in the town. She has a special gift of finding fossils.
|Mary Anning with her dog, Tray, painted before 1833.|
Even though the book is classified as a novel, the characters are real. (Spoiler alert…) Mary’s work contributed to “fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.” (quote from Wikipedia) I didn’t know this when I started reading the book.
I found the layout interesting; each chapter takes turn between the two main characters (Mary and Elizabeth), talking in first person. I’m interested in archaeology but you don’t have to, to enjoy this story. It might be a bit slow to begin with, but gets interesting very quickly. I highly recommend it.
The other book I read was for my February Book Club. It was called Jane Addams: Spirit in Action by Louise W. Knight. I have to say that I don’t remember hearing about Jane in all my reading of women’s history. It’s hard to say what she’s best known for: being the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, co-founding the first American settlement house in Chicago (Hull House), or co-founding the NAACP and the ACLU. As you can tell by her “resume” she was an activist, for women, minorities and children. If you’re enjoy 20th century history, this book is a great resource. If you’re interested in fascinating women, it is a must read. The book comes with photos, a great index, and notes; I didn’t use the Notes in the back of the book but it’s nice to have.