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She Sold Seashells

19 September 2023

Over two centuries after her untimely passing, Mary Anning is finally getting the recognition and respect she deserved. Books such as Tom Sharpe’s The Fossil Woman: A Life of Mary Anning sell splendidly, whilst the biopic Ammonite attracted stars like Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Anning’s work sells for dizzying prices at auctions and the museum built at the site of her former home in Lyme Regis is bustling. She even has her own statue, erected on what would have been her 223rd birthday, following a campaign by eleven-year-old Evie Swire, who (rightly) couldn’t understand why there wasn’t one already! A new book has added to this buzz: She Sold Seashells: The Curious Mary Anning. Re-imagined by Wolfgang Grulke. Award-winning nature writer Grulke has crafted a short but genuinely beautiful story that is ‘ideal for curious readers of all ages’. 

As stated on the book’s website, we have all seen the iconic painting of Mary in her green cloak, with her beloved dog, Tray, by her feet. The book used artificial intelligence (AI) to create beautifully evocative images of Mary from a young age, blending effects to make them look like paintings. The front cover shows Mary around age 27: bright, curious, smiling. Once you delve into the pages, you journey through the story of her life in chronological order, from the lightning strike when she was a baby until her tragic passing from breast cancer at age 47. 

The AI-derived pictures use a muted palette of mainly browns and greens, showing Lyme Regis in the 1800s. Scattered amongst these are photographs and information about fossils, and context on the place of women in Victorian society. This is, of course, the reason that Mary was not given her place formally in the geological world back then, despite being highly respected by well-known characters, such as Georges Cuvier and William Buckland. 

She Sold Seashells should be in schools all over the world, and given as a gift to anyone, young or old, who has an interest in Mary, fossils, or palaeontology. It is beautifully illustrated, concisely and logically written, and, above all, it brilliantly conveys the fierce curiosity and wistful sense of injustice that Mary must have felt at being unable to fully join the emerging world of geology. Two hundred years ago, she was ahead of her time. Now, finally, her time has come. 

Reviewed by Melanie Brehaut 



BY: Wolfgang Grulke (2023). At One Publications. 96 pp. (hbk) 

ISBN: 9781916039452 

PRICE: £12 maryanningreimagined.atone.org