A Bone from a Dry Sea
Laurel Leaf, 1995 (1992)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
Bone from a Dry Sea
tells the stories of two young women. One of them is from '
our furthest possible past
'. Dickinson tells us that we are '
looking through lenses of time, right at the edge of imagination's eyesight
' when we watch Li's tribe forage along the coastline, catching shrimps and other sea creatures in their webbed hands. Modern day Vinny is happy with her mother and stepfather, but wants to get to know her own dad, and joins him in badlands (that used to be sea a few million years before) on a paleontological dig in Africa.
inny's dad tells her that '
the past is an immense ocean which we can neither sail on nor dive down into ... we have nothing to go on except the shells and bones it chooses to wash up at our feet
.' The researchers have been finding pig bones, but with Vinny's advent, they begin to uncover ancient hominid fossils, from Li's time of course. Back in prehistory, Li is very different from the others, wondering about everything around her. After watching a spider use its web to catch prey, she begins to innovate, first to catch shrimp with a primitive net, and eventually to trap fish in large numbers with the aid of dolphins. But there is conflict in both past and present and it leads to crises for both groups. Their resolutions are satisfactory and we leave both young women as they perceive a sense of their own uniqueness - a bridge between humanity in the past and present.
enjoyed this story very much, for the details of paleontology as much as for the author's conception of life between ape and man. Both young heroines are thoughtful and competent (though the speed of Li's innovations stretches credibility somewhat). Li develops a delightful relationship with dolphins, with whom she hopes to dance '
again in their golden seas where the sun was born, and learn the meaning of their song
.' It would be nice to believe that she really was one of our ancestors.
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