Wednesday, April 21, 2010
CURIOSITY by Joan Thomas (2010)
In the early 19th century, 40 years before Darwin published Origin of Species, a young woman named Mary Anning discovered important fossilized remains in Lyme Regis. She began collecting "curiosities" as a child, following her father along the water's edge, and sold them to seaside tourists in order to help feed her siblings. Because she was a woman and a poor one at that, male paleontologists took credit for her work and exhibited her finds under their names.
Henry de la Beche, a gentleman son to parents who own a slave-run plantation in Jamaica, becomes one of the members of the established scientific community to take advantage of Mary, though not before he admires her passion for fossils and their origin and finds himself falling in love with her. Because of class differences, Henry and Mary cannot possibly end up together, yet both dream of doing so.
Considered a pariah for believing that the fossilized creatures discovered in Lyme Regis predate Noah and the Flood, Mary is unsurprisingly ostracized by the community that raised her.