By Joan Thomas
“Right from its powerful opening, the novel buffets readers with the inescapable momentum of waves against the Dorset cliffs…Thomas delivers: Curiosity is without question the best novel this reader has come across in the past year.”
–Quill & Quire
Based on the life of a real, and most extraordinary, woman, Curiosity seamlessly blends history and fiction, passion and science in a breathtaking novel set in 19th-century Lyme Regis, England.
More than forty years before Darwin published of On the Origin of Species, a 12-year-old cabinet-maker’s daughter named Mary Anning found the fossilized skeleton of a dolphin-like creature in the cliffs of Dorset, and spent a year chipping it from its millennia-old resting place. This was only the first of many important discoveries made by this uncommon woman; indeed, she was perhaps the most important paleontologist of her day, even though her finds were named and exhibited by the “official” scientists – all of them men.
Henry de la Beche was the son of a gentry family, owners of a slave-worked estate in Jamaica where he spent his childhood. As an adolescent in England, he ran away from military college, and soon found himself living with his elegant, cynical mother in Lyme Regis, where he pursued his passion for drawing and painting the landscapes and fossils of the area. One morning on an expedition to see an astonishing discovery – a giant skeleton – he encountered a young woman unlike anyone he had ever met.
Curiosity is a richly imagined and beautifully written tale of two very different people and of a meeting that would lead them down paths neither could ever have imagined.
“Curiosity is a delight. Set with marvels and rueful comedy, it’s a warmly intelligent feat of historical sympathy. Mary Anning of Lyme Regis, with her dead-reckoning gaze, moves through these pages like a muddy-booted angel.”
“Joan Thomas takes a paleontologist’s soft brush to the fossil of Mary Anning. Curiosity’s examination of the class strata, the burgeoning ideas, and the interior life of her time is meticulous and deeply affecting. The traps of poverty and class, the gyrations Anning’s contemporaries performed to fit the fossil evidence to religious doctrine, even their calcified notions of women’s place in science and society, fall away to reveal the hidden life below: the human mind and heart excavated with delicate and devastating skill.”
“Thomas handles beautifully the class-afflicted nuances of a doomed love story…”
“What Thomas manages to create is rich to the point of decadence. She practically burrows into the characters. Hers is magnificent prose that appeals to all the senses without grandiloquence.”
“Thomas has proven she is not a one-book wonder. Reading Curiosity is like riding a time machine back to early 19th-century England…Lush prose, compelling narrative and vivid characters…one of the best books of the spring publishing season.”
“…a beautifully wrought, but non-divinely inspired, work of literary art.”
–Winnipeg Free Press
“Thomas has written a timeless story, and an unforgettable one.”
“Mary Anning as portrayed by Joan Thomas stands in her own right as a memorable figure, vulnerable and indomitable at the same time.”
“A beautiful, erudite, and deeply pleasurable work.”
“For a real page-turner, you will want to reach for Curiosity!”
-The Owen Sound Sun Times
McClelland & Stewart, Canada, March 30, 2010
Longlisted for the 2010 Giller Prize
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year 2010
Longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for the McNally Robinson Book of the Year