I never lost my childhood fascination with fossils,dinosaurs and natural history so I was excited to stumble across this novel about two of Britain's earliest fossil hunters. It is set in the early part of the 19th century. Mary Anning was a working class girl who developed a good eye for finding fossils in the cliffs of her home town Lyme Regis. Finding fossils was not only a passion for her, gave her purpose, but was also a livelihood for her and her family. Elizabeth Philpott is a few rungs higher on the social scale but has failed at achieving the highest ambition for a woman of her class: marriage. She also becomes fascinated with the hunt for fossils developing an impressive collection of fossil fish and she and Mary develop an unlikely friendship.
While the book explores some of the scientific thought of the day this is not really the focus of the book. It is really about two women leading unconventional lives for their time and how this effects them and the people around them. Neither ever marries nor is allowed to fully participate in the scientific debates and discussions being spawned by their discoveries. It is definitely a book that will make most modern women glad of the change in societies norms.
I am likely the oddball in wishing there had been more detail about natural history aspects of the book and a little less angsty hand-wringing but overall an enoyable enough read.