Lightning Mary


Only Father and Henry call Mary, ‘Lightning Mary’. She’s so named not only for the lightning that kills the woman holding her and two others when she was an infant. It is a reference to her speed and directness.

Despite difficulties in her gender, societal class and setting, Mary Anning is compelled by curiosity. She faces off against the Dorset cliffs as her father shows her how to unlock its treasures. Initially they seek Devils’ toenails and Rams’ horns, curiosities to earn their family a little money. Yet Mary and her father know there are wonders lurking in the cliffs. Mary believes there is more to these bones and fragments than superstition. Yet science confounds her through society, expectation and her lack of formal education.

We are only beginning to appreciate Mary Anning’s determined research and discoveries. In ‘Lightning Mary’ , Mary is formed for us beyond the youngster who unearths a ichthyosaur. Her discoveries stretch beyond the rhyme made about her-  ‘She sells seashells….

‘Lightning Mary’ is an authentic realisation of a courageous researcher who persists despite repeated adversity and convention. Anthea Simmons draws her readers into appreciating this intelligent, determined woman in her most fulfilling story.


Lightning Mary

Anthea Simmons

(Andersen Press)

England is at war with Napoleon when ‘Lightning Mary’ is born. Life is tough for her family. There is little in the way of comfort, guaranteed payment for her father’s furniture making, or the treasures Mary, her father and brother, sell tourists. Like her father, Mary Anning is drawn to searching the cliffs. Rams’ horns, angels’ wings, devils’ toenails, fascinate tourists. Mary and her father suspect there is more to learn and discover. What is lurking in the Lyme Regis cliffs?


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