The author deftly plumbs the depths of Mary’s psyche to enlighten us about both Shelleys and reveal the profound effects...

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IN SEARCH OF MARY SHELLEY

THE GIRL WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN

A fresh biography of Mary Shelley (1797-1851), who created the monster that has become “part of our shared imagination.”

Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died just after she was born, leaving her and her older, illegitimate sister, Fanny, to be raised by her father, William Godwin. Since her parents were two of the leading political philosophers of the time, Mary received a fine education in the humanities, developing her reasoning skills. Godwin was also an anarchist and utilitarian who seemed to approve of the Romantic poets and free love—except for Percy Shelley. As his protégé, Shelley met Mary when she was 16, and he was married with a pregnant wife. They soon ran off to Europe and took Mary’s stepsister, Jane, with them. Throughout the marriage, they shared their talents and supported and encouraged each other. But Shelley handled money poorly, and they soon had to return to London to the first of innumerable homes throughout Europe. Jane, who soon changed her name to Claire, met and fell for Lord Byron and persuaded Percy and Mary to meet up with him at Lake Geneva. As Sampson (Lyric Cousins: Poetry and Musical Form, 2016, etc.) shows in this perceptive biography, it was there that Frankenstein was born, with Byron’s challenge to write ghost stories. Begun when she was 19, Mary’s novel, often considered the first work of science fiction, was finished and published before she was 21. With it, she changed the face of fiction, revealing the experimental spirit of the Romantic period. Unfortunately, their marriage was also experimental and filled with inequities. Shelley was a firm believer in free love, particularly for himself. After a series of pregnancies and only one surviving child, Mary still believed in their love, even more so after his death. Throughout, Sampson demonstrates why the story of Shelley and Frankenstein remains so intriguing, even today.

The author deftly plumbs the depths of Mary’s psyche to enlighten us about both Shelleys and reveal the profound effects they had on each other.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-752-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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