The writer Rosie Howard recently reviewed On a Falling Tide by saying:
‘This is a story written with such heart and generosity – a tale of grief, romance and mystery – this book has it all, along with the beautifully evoked setting of Lyme Regis and the Jurassic Coast. I really get the impression it was a tale that Georgia Hill passionately wanted to tell.’
I was thrilled with the review but, more importantly, think Rosie hit upon something. Nicola Pryce’s recent blog on how she pieces together bits of inspiration also got me thinking. On a Falling Tide was a book I needed to write – and lots of things came together to inspire it.
It all started with one woman. Mary Anning.
Although fossilist Mary Anning is long dead by the time Lydia, my Victorian heroine, begins to rootle around for ammonites, she haunts the novel much like Lydia’s ghost. Anning has been a heroine of mine since I was a child because of her connection to Lyme Regis. Because of my obsession with the town I became obsessed with her and her history. I seem to remember a Blue Peter feature which brought her to my attention when very young. Because of Lyme Regis and Mary Anning and her fossil discoveries, I became a devotee of Lyme Regis Museum (and which also features in the book) and am now proud to call myself a Friend of the Museum. Because of Mary Anning, I read Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures which remains a favourite book and which I reread partly for research. Along with Sir David Attenborough, Tracy Chevalier is a Patron of the museum. I’ve gone on to read most of Tracy’s other books, so, in turn, have discovered a wonderful writer who has enriched my life.
Everything is linked and one thing leads to another … and another!
Mary Anning is, at last, having her moment in the spotlight. A new Francis Lee film, Ammonite, depicts her life and relationship with Charlotte Murchison. Charlotte really existed, although the nature of her relationship with Mary is hotly disputed.
Ammonite was filmed in Lyme and, during location filming, I popped in to have a look at how the film crew had created the early Victorian version of the town Mary inhabited. It was fascinating. Shop windows were dressed and Mary’s emporium of Fossils and Curios was created.
A fake wall was erected at the bottom of Broad Street. It looked completely real from one side and, from the back, all was scaffolding. The film had its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on Saturday. I can’t wait to see it, if only to spot the false wall!
There is also a movement to erect a statue in Lyme of Mary Anning, led by MaryAnningRocks. Passionate campaigner Evie says there are more statues in the UK of men called John than there are of women. I’m with Evie; it’s about time the imbalance was addressed! If you want to support her, you can find more information on Twitter @MaryAnningRocks and here:
The BBC recently published a very comprehensive article about Mary Anning. It’s well worth reading. Link here:
I often wish Lydia, fictional character that she is, was around to witness all this. In On a Falling Tide she struggles against expectations that she should settle for a society marriage, when all she wants to do is follow in Mary Anning’s footsteps and scrub amongst the Blue Lias for fossils. Had Lydia been born in 1996 rather than 1846, I know she’d be working as a scientist, would be desperate to see the film Ammonite and be a lead support in the MaryAnningRocks campaign. And be loud and bolshy about it too!
We have no idea what Mary Anning was really like but I’m thrilled that she’s finally getting a chance to shine as the hero in science that she is. May she continue to inspire long into the future.