THE WOMAN WHO CREATED FRANKENSTEIN: A Portrait of Mary Shelley by Janet Harris


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Her parents, prominent intellectuals, married to make her legitimate; and her mother died giving birth to her. At 16, she ran off with an aristocratic young poet, whom she married three years later after his young wife's suicide. She bore him three children, two of whom died, before he was drowned eight years after their elopement. Her half-sister was a suicide and her niece, the illegitimate child of another half-sister and the celebrated poet Byron, died at five. She knew the leading poets and thinkers of her day, wrote a best-selling horror classic at 18, and published several successful novels and travel journals during her relatively short life. That romantic life story, combined with the continuing popularity of the story she wrote--and, not least, the appended 28-item listing of ""Frankenstein on Film,"" is probably enough to draw young readers, despite Harris' clich‚d writing and choppy structure. Harris breaks up the narrative for a 20-page Frankenstein summary, a 15-page briefing on centuries of intellectual background, and, soon after, a backtracking 20-page survey of husband Percy Bysshe Shelley's short life. More centrally, she tells us that Frankenstein was inspired generally by the physical/ metaphysical questing of the day, specifically by the work of Dr. Erasmus Darwin who was believed to have brought a strand of vermicelli to writhing life; and she expounds briefly on the prophetic vision she sees in the work.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row