“Every thing must have a beginning…and that beginning must be linked to something that went before.”
Mary Shelley’s mother, the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, died 11 days after her daughter was born. Reef (Victoria, 2017, etc.) describes Mary’s upbringing at the hands of her “grave and severe” father, William Godwin, and her stepmother, Mary Jane Clairmont; and in the company of their children. Godwin was an atheist, a radical thinker, and a prolific author who believed in the importance of holistic education. His revolutionary views intrigued the precocious poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who frequented the Godwin home. Believing that Shelley was only interested in intellectual ideas, Godwin was shocked to discover that the charismatic poet and his 16-year-old daughter had fallen hopelessly in love. Hastily revising his liberal views, he forbade their union. Thus began a series of extraordinary adventures, from the flight of Mary and Percy to Europe, where they led a restless life, suffering the deaths of all but one of their children, culminating in Percy’s tragic drowning off the Italian coast. Reef skillfully analyzes how Mary Shelley’s terrible losses and her broad education and life experience influenced her extraordinary literary achievement, which included six novels in addition to the supremely influential Frankenstein.
A thorough, sensitive portrayal of one of literature’s most remarkable authors, illustrated with period portraits and engravings. (notes, bibliography, Mary Shelley’s works, index) (Biography. 12-18)