Better known as children’s authors (In Darkness, Death, 2004, etc.), the Hooblers address the adult market with a biography of Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley based on a very shaky premise.
Shelley’s famous novel somehow cursed the lives of George Gordon, Lord Byron and his four guests at Villa Diodati on the night when Byron proposed the celebrated ghost story competition, the authors declare. “A dark star hung over all [those] brilliant young people,” they ominously intone. Within a decade of that summer evening in 1816, Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley lost several babies, then Percy drowned; Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont gave birth to Byron’s child, who died at age five; Byron himself was dead before he turned 40; and his friend John Polidori, fifth at the villa, was a probable suicide at 25. They may well have deserved their fates, according to the Hooblers’ highly colored rendering, which depicts everyone involved in Mary’s life as “monsters” in some vague metaphorical sense. Much of what the authors assert is unremarkable. In the early 19th century, children often died young, as did adults. People then—and now—were unfaithful to their spouses, became unhappy and killed themselves, possessed character flaws. In other words, those in the Shelley circle were no more cursed or monstrous than the rest of humanity. The Hooblers further strain their biography’s already over-contrived reliance on Mary’s novel by arguing that she became, in effect, Victor Frankenstein when she devoted herself to reviving her dead husband by publishing his complete poems and burnishing his tarnished reputation. This requires the authors to give very scant attention to Mary’s considerable post-Frankenstein production of novels, stories and nonfiction. Its thin thesis notwithstanding, the volume does reveal that the Hooblers have read the standard biographies of the principals as well as their published correspondence, journals and diaries.
Only the newest arrivals to Shelley-land will discover any novelty here.