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

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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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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