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The perennial fascination of the Shelley-Godwin story still endures- in this novel which holds close to the details of the records and the interpretations drawn from the poems and writings of a vocal pair. Mary Godwin had been brought up with the strange philosophies of the eccentric William Godwin and the legacy of her dead mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. Shelley, Godwin's devout admirer, found himself attracted to Mary when still a young girl. This is the story of their union, the early years when they were pilloried by a society that thought itself broadminded. And Shelley's marriage and then his liaison with Mary were both marred by interfering sisters, and Claire continually used Mary and Shelley to forward her own ends. The shifting scene- England, France, Switzerland, Italy, frames the whole group of English literary expatriates, but this is more a study of their impact on each other and their personal rather than artistic lives. While the story has its recurrent appeal, the writing is occasionally lush, and it is hard to keep in sympathy with the overcredulous Shelley, the sensitive, perceptive Mary, or the others influenced by the turbulent passage of their lives. Eileen Bigland's Mary Shelley which appeared in 1959 is superior.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1961
Publisher: World