Curiosity by Joan Thomas
Janeen had brought a most interesting portrait of the heroine Mary Anning, a dark, strong, homely woman posed in bonnet and voluminous skirts, with a small dog! (why was the dog never
mentioned?) And we looked up the meaning of Henri de la Bêche’s name....une bêche is a spade or a stuck-up person!
General comments: We liked the writing...picturesque descriptions and memorable images, and the author provided a good insight into the manners, dress, social attitudes of the times, as well as the landscape and climate of Lyme Regis.
We talked about the difficulty of constructing a work of fiction around figures as well known as the many scientists and clergymen that populate this story...of putting words into their mouths and sentiments in their hearts. Does it get easier or harder, the farther away time that is being written about? We thought easier...less detail known, therefore more freedom to invent.
As a love story Curiosity doesn’t compare to a Harlequin romance, but it is a true love story....the unrecognized mutual love and fascination that developed between Mary Anning and Henri de la Bêche no doubt heightened and accented the passion they felt for their science. (or was it vice versa...?)
The Bible was the main book of Knowledge of the times, and the preachers were the teachers, but Mary Anning, following the inspiration of her father plus her own insight and understanding of “underground science” could largely ignore the dogma that the others scientists had to tailor their thoughts around, We found James Wheaton’s chosen text “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” to be interesting and to have multiple meanings. (not only was Mary destined to remain unmarried, but if she was single-minded, that would provide the light by which she would see.
Would Mary have been recognized as a great scientist in more modern times? We thought probably not as she’s a woman! She has achieved a good deal of notoriety however...several books have been written about her life and achievements.
The technique of telling the story from two points of view made it more interesting...this is a technique often used in novels and movies. Who else’s point of view would have been interesting?...one of us chose Mrs Aveline, for her vantage points in Jamaica on a slave plantation with one husband, and in England in a mansion with the other. Or perhaps Letitia...was she just an air head or would she justify her questionable choices as those of a pragmatist survivor?
We rated the book thus: 8.0, 7.5, 7.5, 7.5, 7.5, 7.0, 6.0, 6.0, 5.5, 5.0, and 4.0 for an average of 6.5.