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On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history.  The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mar On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history.  The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.      Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece. Includes index.  


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On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history.  The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mar On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history.  The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.      Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece. Includes index.  

30 review for Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator

  1. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence: Mary Shelley had been dead a year when her son unlocked her portable desk and found the remains of human heart. The heart, he knew, had been his father's. It had rested in the desk for thirty years, unseen and untouched, since the day in 1822 when Mary Shelley tenderly wrapped it in pages of poetry and put it away. Dust and bits of dried-up muscle were all that was left. Premise/plot: Catherine Reef's newest biography for young adults is Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Fran First sentence: Mary Shelley had been dead a year when her son unlocked her portable desk and found the remains of human heart. The heart, he knew, had been his father's. It had rested in the desk for thirty years, unseen and untouched, since the day in 1822 when Mary Shelley tenderly wrapped it in pages of poetry and put it away. Dust and bits of dried-up muscle were all that was left. Premise/plot: Catherine Reef's newest biography for young adults is Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator. Frankenstein is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Words to describe this one: dramatic, emotional, compelling, fascinating, heartbreaking, thought-provoking. Mary Shelley's life was just as tragic as it was unconventional. Her parents were near-celebrities among the intellectually elite. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was an unconventional woman--an early feminist--who believed in living--experiencing--her life on her own terms despite the frowns of society. She believed in following her heart even if it meant breaking all the rules, even if it led to pain and heartbreak. She brought an illegitimate daughter with her into her marriage with William Godwin (Fanny). Godwin was a like-minded free thinker. At least when he was young with no teenage daughters of his own to raise! It would almost be easier to list everything he was against then to list everything he was for. Anti-tradition, anti-religion, anti-marriage, anti-government, etc. Both Godwin and Wollstonecraft were philosophically-minded writers whose works were published and somewhat applauded and celebrated--at least in certain circles. Mary Godwin's mother died when she was just days old. Godwin who at one time believed he'd never, ever marry now found himself marrying a second time. The woman (Mary Jane Clairmont) he married brought two children (Charles and Jane) from a previous relationship. It was a BLENDED family certainly: Fanny, Charles, Jane, Mary--and then "baby" William. Her father as I mentioned was well-known in certain circles and their house--their bookshop--had plenty of well-known or soon-to-be well-known authors. When Mary was a teenager--perhaps fifteen--she met a young would-be poet named Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was married--married with children. But neither one cared about conventions or morality. It was LOVE. The choice she made at sixteen to follow her heart's passion would change her life for better or worse forever and ever. Perhaps even more startling to modern readers is Mary's decision to bring her step-sister, Jane, with her. The two of them would run away with Percy Bysshe Shelley to Europe. It wasn't just a departure from England but from convention. (They'd return to England...but never quite to convention.) Their lives were packed with DRAMA, DRAMA, AND MORE DRAMA. Mary found herself at the center of it all--an eyewitness to an era. The Romantic poets didn't just approach poetry in a "new," "fresh," "innovative," "genius," way. It was a lifestyle; the poems were a result of how they saw the world around them, what they thought, how they thought. It was thrilling AND disturbing. They wouldn't want it any other way. But would Mary? The book does NOT address that. Perhaps we'll never know the many emotional layers of her heart and mind. (How she felt about her husband, her sister, their many friends that brought chaos and fun into their lives.) My thoughts: Mary Shelley's life was like a wreck--car, train, ship, take your pick--a devastating crash-boom-bang in many ways. But it makes for a fascinating read. I appreciated that the book was more than just a traditional biography. It also focused on her works. It focuses on Frankenstein, of course, but it also focuses on her other works. She didn't just write one book. She kept writing throughout her life. The book includes how her work(s) were critically received (then and now). It also focused on relationships. To read of Mary Shelley is to read of the Romantic poets. For better or worse.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    The life of Mary Shelley was full of romance and tragedy. At just sixteen she ran away with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and they lived together, unwed, as Shelley couldn’t afford to divorce his wife (and mother of his two children). During a cold and wet summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, the couple stayed with poet Lord Byron and shared ghost stories to pass the time. It was there late one night that Mary imagined Dr. Frankenstein and his monster for the first time. While she gained some suc The life of Mary Shelley was full of romance and tragedy. At just sixteen she ran away with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and they lived together, unwed, as Shelley couldn’t afford to divorce his wife (and mother of his two children). During a cold and wet summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, the couple stayed with poet Lord Byron and shared ghost stories to pass the time. It was there late one night that Mary imagined Dr. Frankenstein and his monster for the first time. While she gained some success for her novel, tragedy followed her as she lost many of her loved ones. This YA biography is a fantastic look at a young woman ahead of her time: a brilliant and unconventional woman who promoted feminism and wasn’t afraid to live life on her own terms. While there isn’t anything new to learn within these pages, this biography does a wonderful job of giving the important details about her life and career and is compelling enough that I finished it in two sittings. It includes an excellent list of sources for readers interested in further reading. For readers interested in learning about Mary Shelley, I highly recommend this book as well as Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  3. 4 out of 5

    Molly Likovich

    SPOILER FREE! 4.5 STARS I received an ARC of this book on Books For Trade on twitter. I am a huge fan of Mary Shelley, and have read a few accounts on her life, but this one was excellent. This book is concise and doesn't dally too long in either a stance of emotionally removed factual deliverance, or overly emotionally involved fictionalization of events. One thing I really appreciated about this biography, is most accounts I read only follow Mary Shelley's life in-depth up through the death of SPOILER FREE! 4.5 STARS I received an ARC of this book on Books For Trade on twitter. I am a huge fan of Mary Shelley, and have read a few accounts on her life, but this one was excellent. This book is concise and doesn't dally too long in either a stance of emotionally removed factual deliverance, or overly emotionally involved fictionalization of events. One thing I really appreciated about this biography, is most accounts I read only follow Mary Shelley's life in-depth up through the death of her husband, Percy Shelley, then just jump ahead to how her story lived on after her death. However, this account details her life very thoroughly after Percy's passing and I found it fascinating, learning many things about her I didn't know. This account also paid special attention to all her other marvelous fiction works besides Frankenstein that weren't appreciated till much after her time. The few reasons this book couldn't get a full five stars from me is because I don't believe it delved deeply enough into unpacking the mental state of Mary and her companions. Clearly mental illness was apparent in many of the characters of Mary's life, Mary herself included, but the only brief mention of it is a passing line about her stepsister, Claire. I also would've liked if the text harbored more on the radical feminist ideals Mary carried and presented throughout her life after discovering the works of her late mother, Mary Wolstonecraft. And lastly, this account glossed over the emotional abuse of Mary's marriage to Percy, and the toxicity of their relationship. I can understand such a stance is based more on opinion than fact, but the emotional abuses Mary faced in her life from those that she loved was abundant, and I wanted a slightly more compassionate account of them. However this book is highly readable and enjoyable and fast-paced, unlike almost every other biography I've ever read. It's a great reader for fans of Shelley, but also so well explained that even if you've never even picked up Frankenstein you can get a good sense not only of her, but of her seminal work. I will discuss this more on my YouTube channel: http://www.YouTube.com/MagiKwand99

  4. 4 out of 5

    kav (xreadingsolacex)

    Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacted my review. Actual Rating: 3.75 stars I don't read non-fiction/biography-type work often, but this ARC was recommended to me by the publisher at their YALLWest booth back in May and it sounded interesting enough for me to pick up a copy. Let me just say, I am so thankful I took the opportunity to read and review this. Mary Shelley is known for being the woman behind Frankenstein, and that's Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacted my review. Actual Rating: 3.75 stars I don't read non-fiction/biography-type work often, but this ARC was recommended to me by the publisher at their YALLWest booth back in May and it sounded interesting enough for me to pick up a copy. Let me just say, I am so thankful I took the opportunity to read and review this. Mary Shelley is known for being the woman behind Frankenstein, and that's the only way I've known her. I've never read Frankenstein myself (though now I certainly plan to change that), but as an avid feminist and reader, I've always known of Shelley's impact on science-fiction. So I knew when this was mentioned to me that I would be interested in learning more about her life and let's just say her life was certainly a heavy experience. Firstly, in terms of this as a book, it reads easy. It doesn't read blatantly like a 'memoir' and the wording is easy to follow. That being said, it is also very obviously historical. For most of my time reading it, I really couldn't figure out if I felt that that the progression was natural or too historical - it kind of went back and forth between the two. Now this may just be me personally because this is not my usual reading, but that was probably my biggest difficulty while reading it. Outside of it, because of this style, there were also a lot of name drops and date drops and that can be hard to follow. Obviously that does make sense for a biography, but for a reader more on the outside like me, it does take some getting used to and can be confusing to follow. All that being said, it was easy information to take in and Mary Shelley's life is so interesting. Thinking about her impact on science-fiction and literature today, it's so unbelievable to consider how difficult her life was and the amount of shit she dealt with. I don't want to get too into the details because you can easily find them, particularly by reading this biography, but I definitely have a newfound respect and admiration for Shelley and am so glad I got the chance to learn more about her. All in all, even if biographies aren't your cup of tea (or if they are), I'd recommend checking this one out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Slipak

    On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet s On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune. Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece. Includes index. Out September, 2018 MY THOUGHTS: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is a biography of an extraordinary woman who accomplished something during a time that such a feat was seldom heard of. The motivation behind her work is clearly dictated by her past, previous relationships and issues of mental illness. However, the end result of her work will go on to become great classics of both intuition and imagination combined. I read this book in one sitting and was pleasantly surprised to see that the author left out many of Mary's darker rumored experiences and stayed to the facts. There are many drier versions of Mary's biography out there, but this one was both entertaining, informative and smooth in its deliverance. Loved the book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Donalyn

    Good background on Mary Shelley’s life and work. Don’t miss the extensive resources for more inquiry in the back matter.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A relatively short but densely packed bio on Mary Shelley. Who by the age of 25 had been married & widowed, borne four children of which only one survived, and had written a novel. She carried more sorrow from deaths within her family and intimate social circle within the same time period or shortly thereafter & she herself died at the age of 53. She is mainly remembered as the wife of Percy Shelley & author of the now classic Frankenstein. However, she wrote six other novels as well as essays, A relatively short but densely packed bio on Mary Shelley. Who by the age of 25 had been married & widowed, borne four children of which only one survived, and had written a novel. She carried more sorrow from deaths within her family and intimate social circle within the same time period or shortly thereafter & she herself died at the age of 53. She is mainly remembered as the wife of Percy Shelley & author of the now classic Frankenstein. However, she wrote six other novels as well as essays, short stories, & biographies. The author describes her writing: Readers discovered a writer with imagination, one whose talent was versatile. She produced a gothic novel, historical fiction, and a futuristic novel as well as stories set in her own time. In her novels she peered into the dark corners of the human mind and heart. She explored emotions taken to their extreme: grief, in Mathilda, for example, and guilt in Falkner. She bravely took chances... She also used her fiction to comment on social issues, such as the education of women in Lodore. The weirdest tidbit gleaned from this bio that I did not know before, was that Mary kept the heart of Percy stored away in her desk, it was discovered by her son after Mary's death.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Fenner

    Review Originally Posted on Taylor Fenner's Bookish World Before Josh & I... Before F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald... There was Mary Wollstonecraft and Percy Bysshe Shelley... the most dysfunctional couple of their time. (In my opinion). Let me start by saying that I don't usually read non-fiction books, especially not biographies, but I won a copy of this book from the publisher and it looked really good and was fairly short and I was in a book rut anyway so I dove in... and I couldn't put it down! I wa Review Originally Posted on Taylor Fenner's Bookish World Before Josh & I... Before F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald... There was Mary Wollstonecraft and Percy Bysshe Shelley... the most dysfunctional couple of their time. (In my opinion). Let me start by saying that I don't usually read non-fiction books, especially not biographies, but I won a copy of this book from the publisher and it looked really good and was fairly short and I was in a book rut anyway so I dove in... and I couldn't put it down! I was in awe of Mary Shelley's life. I mean, you know the author, you know her most famous work, but I did not know what she had done to be so universally disliked by her peers. From her parent's backgrounds to her childhood spent hanging out by her mother's grave to running away with a married man, Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was only 16 and the tumultuous life they would live together - I was fascinated! I couldn't get enough. I mean their lifestyle, their traveling, their money woes, and Mary's health issues, it was like reading Z by Therese Anne Fowler only 100 years earlier in Europe. These are the type of historical women I look up to, the kind that resonate with me the most. Catherine Reef did a wonderful job bringing Mary to life on the page and I recommend this book to everyone familiar with Mary Shelley's life and those that aren't.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    This was...fascinating but ultimately so very boring. There was some great, intriguing, and wholly engrossing things that were discussed in this story, but I believe the way it was presented struggled to captivate me as a whole. The whole story was basically like this: "Mary did this. And then she did this. And then this happened so she did that." I wanted a little more from the story. I wanted a bit more depth into who she was as a person and definitely more about her stories. I still can't nam This was...fascinating but ultimately so very boring. There was some great, intriguing, and wholly engrossing things that were discussed in this story, but I believe the way it was presented struggled to captivate me as a whole. The whole story was basically like this: "Mary did this. And then she did this. And then this happened so she did that." I wanted a little more from the story. I wanted a bit more depth into who she was as a person and definitely more about her stories. I still can't name you much of her stories because we only got about two paragraphs about the story and then moved on. The pictures were good, and the overall setup was nice. I just wanted more. But dear gosh, Shelley had an interesting life. 2 crowns and a Cinderella rating!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    While I found it interesting to learn more about Mary Shelley's private life, the tragedies she endured, and her unconventional lifestyle from beginning to end, as well as see a side to her husband I always labeled as a sexist pig, overall this was a middle of the road book for me. I think I went into it expecting more of a fictional work than a nonfiction one. Sometimes, the book felt like I was reading a Wikipedia entry. While I appreciated the simplistic writing style for a teenaged audience, While I found it interesting to learn more about Mary Shelley's private life, the tragedies she endured, and her unconventional lifestyle from beginning to end, as well as see a side to her husband I always labeled as a sexist pig, overall this was a middle of the road book for me. I think I went into it expecting more of a fictional work than a nonfiction one. Sometimes, the book felt like I was reading a Wikipedia entry. While I appreciated the simplistic writing style for a teenaged audience, I felt like the author could have done better than that. Despite this, I would recommend this book if you are a hardcore Mary Shelley/Frankenstein fan.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Very interesting story. This book can easily be read in a day. I would have finished it one, had napping and other obligations not been there. I've read Frankenstein but knew nothing else about Mary Shelly. Not an exactly an exciting book to read, but keeps the attention well enough. Mary Shelley's life story is worth the dryness of the book. Very interesting story. This book can easily be read in a day. I would have finished it one, had napping and other obligations not been there. I've read Frankenstein but knew nothing else about Mary Shelly. Not an exactly an exciting book to read, but keeps the attention well enough. Mary Shelley's life story is worth the dryness of the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    DNF Mary Shelley is obviously a fascinating woman but the writing style made this a struggle to read. It basically races through a series of facts - taking strange detours to what, essentially, become biographies of other people. I had high hopes for this one but alas, it wasn't for me. DNF Mary Shelley is obviously a fascinating woman but the writing style made this a struggle to read. It basically races through a series of facts - taking strange detours to what, essentially, become biographies of other people. I had high hopes for this one but alas, it wasn't for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Doug Jennings

    Such a remarkable life recounted by Catherine Reef with clarity, compassion, helpful context, period illustrations and in a writing style that kept me wanting to turn the page. Mary Shelley was just shy of 19 years old when she wrote a masterpiece of fiction that continues to haunt us centuries later. Your heart will break when you read of her yearning to know a mother who died after giving her birth and of Mary's other tragic losses. But her will of steel to survive and care for those she loved Such a remarkable life recounted by Catherine Reef with clarity, compassion, helpful context, period illustrations and in a writing style that kept me wanting to turn the page. Mary Shelley was just shy of 19 years old when she wrote a masterpiece of fiction that continues to haunt us centuries later. Your heart will break when you read of her yearning to know a mother who died after giving her birth and of Mary's other tragic losses. But her will of steel to survive and care for those she loved and for the unfortunate people who crossed her path is a terrific story in itself. This is a book aimed at young adults and for me served as the perfect primer for a more exhaustive biography. My 5-star rating is not excessive because I cannot think of one single thing I would change in this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    What a beautiful tribute to Mary Shelley that Reef has captured. As I spoke when I shared this with a group of librarian's today, it can be used not only has a biography for Shelley but also historical reference for the time period. Reef includes so much background information around everything from illness to inventions, transportation and finances that there's literally two stories in one- historical and biographical. And yes, how could one woman survive the loss of three babies, only to see o What a beautiful tribute to Mary Shelley that Reef has captured. As I spoke when I shared this with a group of librarian's today, it can be used not only has a biography for Shelley but also historical reference for the time period. Reef includes so much background information around everything from illness to inventions, transportation and finances that there's literally two stories in one- historical and biographical. And yes, how could one woman survive the loss of three babies, only to see one live a full life? She survived illness and the sea death of her husband (who had been married to another), disowned, disenfranchised and more. A portrait of the woman who created Frankenstein.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    What a tragic life Mary Shelley lived. I found myself fascinated by her world travels and horrified by Percy Shelley's dateline-level creepiness when it came to their relationship. This book made me want to read more of Mary Shelley's work, and gives a nice look into her mental state when she wrote Frankenstein. What a tragic life Mary Shelley lived. I found myself fascinated by her world travels and horrified by Percy Shelley's dateline-level creepiness when it came to their relationship. This book made me want to read more of Mary Shelley's work, and gives a nice look into her mental state when she wrote Frankenstein.

  16. 4 out of 5

    fieldsofliterature

    It’s so important to look into the reasons why authors during those times wrote what they did. Mary was apart of the Enlightenment movement whereas her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley was in the Romantic movement. I loved learning about their literary challenges and their tendency to befriend other poets.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Molly Dettmann

    Mary Shelley lived a dark and fascinating life. I thought this was a decent upper middle school/high school biography. The writing was just dry enough that it’ll take some book talking or an already interested kid to pick this up and just love it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jan Lynch

    3.5: Efficient, smooth, informative writing, but falls somewhat shy of engaging.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mandi Monster Hidalgo

    A very well written account of the strange, fascinating, and sometimes really sad life of such a historical icon and famous author.

  20. 5 out of 5

    lacy white

    A special thank you goes out to Clarion books for sending me an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Literally take my rating with a grain of salt. This book was good and I enjoyed it a lot but I didn't realize that it was middle grade and I don't think I was the target audience for this particular book. That being said, I did enjoy this book. It had pictures, which I always am a fan of. It would be awesome to have seen them in color (the ones that are in color; I know some pi A special thank you goes out to Clarion books for sending me an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Literally take my rating with a grain of salt. This book was good and I enjoyed it a lot but I didn't realize that it was middle grade and I don't think I was the target audience for this particular book. That being said, I did enjoy this book. It had pictures, which I always am a fan of. It would be awesome to have seen them in color (the ones that are in color; I know some pictures will be in black and white) and hopefully the published version will have them. The pictures added a nice element and really brought Mary Shelley's world to life. Like I mentioned above, this book is middle grade but I would consider it upper middle grade. Someone in seventh or eighth grade would enjoy this and be able to understand it. Actually, I’m sure people of all ages would enjoy this if they loved Frankenstein. Overall, this was delightful, despite it being written for a younger person. People of all ages would enjoy the pictures and the thrilling tale of Mary Shelley

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this in preparation for reading Frankenstein for two different book clubs next month. Because I needed to turn this book back in to the library, I have chosen to write the following as part review, part summary. I love the font chosen for the table of contents and for each chapter's beginning. It adds a nice Gothic touch. I was disturbed to learn that Mary Shelley kept her dead husband's heart wrapped in pages of poetry in her portable desk. Her son found it a year after her death, decomp I read this in preparation for reading Frankenstein for two different book clubs next month. Because I needed to turn this book back in to the library, I have chosen to write the following as part review, part summary. I love the font chosen for the table of contents and for each chapter's beginning. It adds a nice Gothic touch. I was disturbed to learn that Mary Shelley kept her dead husband's heart wrapped in pages of poetry in her portable desk. Her son found it a year after her death, decomposed and turned to dust and dried-up muscle (p. 1). (How did it not stink???) Some might think this very romantic, but I find it a bit distressing. Even still, opening Catherine Reef's biography of Mary Shelley in this way adds even more to the Gothic tone of the book, and hints of more to come. The prologue serves to capture the reader, providing incentive, as well as an invitation to continue reading. Readers are promised truth unbelievably stranger than fiction, heartbreak, suicides, drownings, and births and deaths of children (p. 1-2). In other words, we are promised tragedy. The author issues a challenge. Mary Shelley asserted that she could not be the heroine of her tales, but could she be "the hero of her life's tale?" (p. 2). Reef leaves this for the reader to determine upon further reading. (Impressive opening! Caught my attention!) "Stories, even hideous ones like Frankenstein, are never created from nothingness, Mary Shelley believed. The storyteller draws on memory, on chance occurrences, on things read and overheard. From this chaos, she weaves a tale. 'Every thing must have a beginning," Shelley wrote, 'and that beginning must be linked to something that went before'" (p. 2). Readers will find that events early in Mary's life helped shape her stories, although she would go on to be known not just as the author of Frankenstein and other books, but as mistress, wife, and widow of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Many years after her death, Mary Shelley will be known as an author in her own right, reaching readers with such truths as "Treat a person ill, and he will become wicked" (p. 85). She "peered into the dark corners of the human mind and heart", "explored emotions taken to their extremes: grief. . . and guilt", "she bravely took chances", and "used her fiction to comment on social issues, such as the education of women" (p. 174). Chapter One begins with another clinching sentence: "Dead hearts and bones can never be given new life" (p. 3), alluding to Mary Shelley's husband's heart discussed in the prologue, a plot point in her most well-known work, Frankenstein, as well as to her deceased mother, around whose grave she often played as a young child, to whom she desperately wanted to feel a connection. Upon the introduction of Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, readers are treated to her background and a small sample of her beliefs as an early feminist. "The women held in highest esteem—the wives and daughters of the upper classes—were 'the most oppressed,' Wollstonecraft wrote. 'How much more respectful is the woman who earns her own bread by fulfilling and duty, than the most accomplished beauty'" (p. 5). Later in the biography, Wollstonecraft is quoted again, embracing a seize the day, Carpe Diem mentality: "Gain experience—ah! gain it—while experience is worth having, and acquire sufficient fortitude to pursue your own happiness" (p. 24). Mary Shelley's father, William Godwin, also gave voice to what he saw as political injustices in his published writings. "He attacked institutions that he believed stopped people from thinking in new ways or doing as they wished: marriage, schools, churches, and especially governments. 'Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility,' he wrote. He imagined an ideal form of anarchy, one that did away with crime and let people share wealth equally (Was he perhaps wishing for a utopia, or in favor of communism or socialism?). He was also an atheist" (p. 7-8). That being said, Godwin took responsibility and wouldn't allow Mary Wollstonecraft to raise her second child alone when she became pregnant with his child. He married her, also becoming a stepfather to an illegitimate daughter from Wollstonecraft's previous relationship. Unto such parents was Mary Shelley born, and, although her mother died days after giving birth, unto such views was Mary exposed as she was raised. She was shaped by this open thinking, and it is no wonder that she herself eschewed marriage when she ran off with and entered into an adulterous relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was 16. At this point in time, Godwin had altered his views somewhat, and her father was less than supportive of her actions, wishing to have nothing to do with her (p. 36). Later, they would reconcile. In her growing up years, Mary Shelley was also exposed to the "stimulating" conversation of her father's friends, and the influence of these conversations can be seen in the writing of Frankenstein. She was shaped by these conversations, the topics of which included Arctic exploration and a "scientist experimenting with electricity (who) had made a dead frog's legs twitch" (p. 10). Charles Lamb is listed as among those friends, and his essays are mentioned including one on "the glories of roast pig" (p. 10) (readers familiar with the novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will appreciate this reference to Charles Lamb and to a roast pig). Other renowned thinkers who gathered at Godwin's were James Marshall, John Philpot Curran, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Reef portrays an instance when Mary and her stepsister (from her father's second marriage) snuck out of bed to listen to Coleridge read his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (p. 10). The three girls in the Godwin household were taught at home by their father/stepfather himself. "'Seeds of intellect and knowledge, seeds of moral judgment and conduct, I have sown,'" he is quoted as saying (p. 12). Mary is said to have preferred harder and more challenging lessons. Her father promoted the reading of "books that made them think and imagine" instead of "children's books that drilled dry facts and proverbs into young heads" (p. 12). "With those books, 'we may learn by rote a catalogue of rules, and repeat our lesson with the exactness of a parrot', . . . but we fail to dream. 'Without imagination we may have a certain cold and arid circle of principles, but we cannot have sentiments'" (p. 12). Godwin began writing children's books, and later he and his second wife opened a children's book shop. Charles Lamb joined Godwin in his writing efforts. They ensured that "these children's books were anything but dull" (p. 13). The sentiments of these stories may have influenced Mary Shelley's later writing as well. Additionally, Mary was sent to live with a family in Scotland for awhile, and while there she enjoyed similar lively discussions and also heard tales of more Arctic explorations and ships and men who never returned, and it was in Scotland that she began to write. As quoted above, stories do not come out of nowhere. Enter Percy Bysshe Shelley. Percy's behavior is erratic (impulsive, not able to sit still, lying, impatient, bold, having a tendency to be obsessive, imprudent, showing hypochondriac tendencies, eloping, running away with a young woman while already a husband and father, intense, frantic, passionate, driven, unkempt, irresponsible with money and debt, refusing responsibility for his feelings and justifying his actions—believing his passion for Mary can't be helped. . . , telling his wife that "it is no reproach to me that you have never filled my heart with an all sufficing passion" (p. 26), unrealistically thinking his wife will join them as a friend after running away with Mary (p. 31-32) and not understanding why it was hurtful to her, seemingly not to think of others' emotions or the moral constructs of the society in which he lived, hallucinating, mentally unstable, described as having a mind that "moved faster than the rest of him" (p. 20), wild, suicidal, having bursts of creative mental prowess spurring his writing, having unrealistically lofty plans—"flying high" (p. 31), a dreamer; one almost wonders if he suffered from bipolar disorder and maybe ADHD). Eloping at 19, he is married and already has a child when he first meets Mary upon her return from Scotland in the Godwin home, where he has been a frequent visitor. He had become bored with his wife and regretted his impulsive elopement. Unbeknownst to Mary's father, she and Percy became smitten with each other. Percy's passion for Mary arose from her intellect and beauty. She was not brought up in the current fashion that most women were, only to serve and to please. She was brought up to be an open thinker, to "hold her own" (p. 22). Once found out, they were forcibly parted and forbidden to see each other. Percy is described as having a "sudden, violent, irresistible, uncontrollable passion" (p. 25). Threatening suicide and urging Mary to do the same, Percy showed the wild side to his mind and behavior. The two made a frantic plan to run away together, along with Mary's stepsister. While in Europe, they traveled near and possibly visited the ruins of Frankenstein Castle, the birthplace of an alchemist who experimented on dead animals and claimed to have discovered the elixir of life which would make people immortal (p. 33). Could not this also have influenced Mary's most famous novel? Mary's reputation ruined, she returned with them after months spent traveling in Europe, pregnant with Percy's child, and an outcast. Her father and stepmother pretty much disowned her. She was shunned by her closest friend. Percy continued to take no thought for his wife who had been pregnant with his second child at the time of his infidelity, and neither he nor Mary showed remorse for their actions and the pain they caused others to feel. Mary's stepsister (Jane, who changes her name to Claire) refused an offer to come home, insisting "that she had done nothing shameful" (p. 36). Claire will later throw herself at Lord Byron, becoming his mistress, bear his child, be separated from the little girl because she had no money to support her daughter on her own, and neither did the Shelleys. This child would later die of typhus while in the care of a convent. Claire endured many sorrows of her own. Over the course of the next few years, Mary Shelley endured great sadness and depression. Her half-sister Fanny committed suicide, Percy's wife Harriet was found drowned (most likely suicide) in an advanced stage of pregnancy (probably the child of a soldier she had been with after leaving her children in her father's care). Percy and Mary were finally able to wed. Percy lost the case to gain guardianship of his two children from his first marriage. The baby girl Mary was pregnant with when they returned from the continent died several days after birth. Mary would go on to bear a son and another daughter, both of whom would die a few years later while they were traveling/residing in Italy, the younger child first of dysentery, and the son of malaria at age 3. Mary would bear one more son, Percy Florence Shelley, who would go on to live until adulthood. While Mary still struggled with depression resulting from the loss of her other children, Percy found comfort in flirting with other women, and convinced his friends that Mary was a "cold wife" who "cared nothing for him" (p. 109), when in reality Percy had been spending too much time with his friends and ignoring Mary and her needs (p. 108). Their separate ways of grieving marred their relationship. Mary "kept her feelings to herself" which seemed to confirm Percy's allegations (p. 109). Mary suffered a miscarriage with her fifth pregnancy, almost losing her life. A month later, Mary, not yet fully recovered from her miscarriage, experienced the worst when Percy tragically lost his life in a storm while sailing along the Italian coastline. Days later, his body, and those of others who were with him, would wash ashore and the ship would be salvaged. Mary found herself at first "numb to sorrow" (p. 116), and later full of regret and remorse for any unkindness she had ever committed against him. "Because of her stoical nature, she would also do without sympathy from her friends. 'Those about me have no idea of what I suffer. . . for I talk, aye and smile as usual.' No one bothered to notice the blankness in her eyes" (p. 118). Following her husband's death, Mary was further maligned with vicious gossip perpetuated by even trusted, close friends, saying that she had pushed Percy away with her coldness, that she had "stopped loving" him, that she was a "callous, unloving wife" (p. 118, 139). One of her most trusted friends, the mistress of another man who had also perished on the expedition, spread rumors that Percy "had been so unhappy with Mary that he sailed into the storm on purpose, hoping he would die" (p. 139). Perhaps this was a malicious attempt to blame Mary for the woman's own lost lover. Regardless of the truth, other friends believed the gossip and treated her coldly. Betrayed and alone in the world, Mary's only comfort was found in her son, Percy, and in her efforts to protect him and his familial reputation for the remainder of her life. Nothing became more important than helping her son have every chance at success in his life. Mary never remarried, in spite of at least one offer from an interested suitor. ". . . He lacked Percy's lightning-fast mind and bold vision. He could never measure up to the husband she had lost; no one ever could" (p. 129). At this point, although familiar with Mary Shelley's life, yet in a lot less detail, I, as a reader, must stop and assent; Mary's life's truths are indeed stranger than fiction. I concede that one cannot make this stuff up. Mary also rescued an unwed teenager with a daughter farmed out, sending them both to live with a writer friend who was transitioning to life as a man. Mary contracted smallpox while visiting them in France. Her other half-sibling William died of cholera. Her father and later her step-mother also died. She became subject to exorbitant blackmail after her son inherited the Shelley estate and title (becoming a baronet). Her life was brought to a tragic end at the age of 53 after more struggles with depression as well as severe health problems. The slander of Mary Shelley's lack of devotion to Percy Bysshe Shelley is laid to rest with no room for doubts as news of her death is printed: "'It is not, however, as the authoress even of 'Frankenstein,' that she derives her most enduring and endearing title to our affectionate remembrance, but as the faithful and devoted wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley'" (p. 173). There is no doubt, as the case put forth by Reef's expert writing and synthesis, that the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was truly a life full of unbelievable occurrences. How could this much happen to one woman alone? Mary was indeed the hero of her life's story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    While I've never read Frankenstein, I have of course heard of it. And the fact that it is still around after 200 years says a lot about it's appeal. I did find this book about the author absolutely fascinating. Reef has done a fabulous job of creating a very readable informative book about Mary Shelley. In fact, I found it rather compelling. Mary Shelley was clearly a woman who knew her own mind, and experienced great emotion. Being surrounded by writers and thinkers from the time she was really While I've never read Frankenstein, I have of course heard of it. And the fact that it is still around after 200 years says a lot about it's appeal. I did find this book about the author absolutely fascinating. Reef has done a fabulous job of creating a very readable informative book about Mary Shelley. In fact, I found it rather compelling. Mary Shelley was clearly a woman who knew her own mind, and experienced great emotion. Being surrounded by writers and thinkers from the time she was really small helps explain why she ended up being a writer and thinker herself. It also explains why she was attracted to Percy Bysshe Shelley who had such a way with words himself. Both were also passionate individuals who found a kindred spirit in the other. The fact that Percy was already married to someone else didn't seem to bother either one of them. But the scandal created when they ran off together never left them alone. They were rejected by main society and so spent much of their time with others like themselves who found mainstream society restrictive and unwelcoming. It was while spending time which such friends that Mary was first inspired to write Frankenstein. The encouragement of her friends lead her to finish and edit the story before finding a publisher. Mary continued to write and many of her writings were inspired by her own thoughts, and feelings, and experiences. She experienced tragedy in her life with the loss of three of her four children at young ages, as well as becoming a widow after only ten years of marriage (she and Percy married after his first wife died). She struggled to support herself on the little she could bring in from her writing as well as the money provided by her husband's family under strict conditions. Despite the challenges in her life, she continued to write. Mary's life really does read like one of her novels with a variety of dramatic ups and downs along the way. Reef has done a wonderful job of bringing to life of an author who truly left her mark on the world. The included drawings and poems add nicely to the atmosphere of the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aika Adamson

    I have never been a fan of biographies, but after reading Reef's book on the Bronte sisters, I found myselft wanting to read by her on great female authors. Mary Shelley has lived an incredibly tragic and dramatic life that almost seems unreal. By age 25, she had been married and widowed and had four children, three of which who had died. This biography focuses mainly on how her love for Percy Shelley lead to these events in her life, but I feel that there wasn't enough about her thoughts and fe I have never been a fan of biographies, but after reading Reef's book on the Bronte sisters, I found myselft wanting to read by her on great female authors. Mary Shelley has lived an incredibly tragic and dramatic life that almost seems unreal. By age 25, she had been married and widowed and had four children, three of which who had died. This biography focuses mainly on how her love for Percy Shelley lead to these events in her life, but I feel that there wasn't enough about her thoughts and feelings on parts of her life that didn't focus soley on her love for Percy. In this biography about Mary Shelley, I found myself forcing myself to read through pages about the lives of others, wondering when the focus would return to Mary. While many of the people mentioned became famous authors, the focus should have remained on Mary Shelley. Too often, it talked about what a friend of the Shelley's did with his life, usually about an event that didn't affect Mary much, if at all. And while I understand that family and friends had a great imlact on Mary's life, I didn't read this book to find out what those people did with their lives. I don't care about how they lived, I just want to read about Mary Shelley. The illustrations and photographs were placed in the book well and offered helpful visuals with appropriate captions. Though this is my least favorite biography by Reef, due to what I discussed above, I did enjoy learning more about Mary Shelley's life. When the focus was on Mary, the writing was engaging and informative without being dull. The incorporation of quotes is masterfully done, and Reef captured Mary's grief beautifully. If you want a biography focusing not on rumor but facts of Mary Shelley's life, this is the one for you.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    I’m not a fan of the horror genre, and in fact have never read Frankenstein nor seen the movie. Yet as a fan of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his young wife and her gruesome creation intrigue me. This biography thoroughly describes the hours when Mary conceived of and wrote her prototype of the novel. It also delineates how Mary refined this manuscript into her first novel and her challenges with publication, as well as showcasing her other novels and uncredited contributions to literature. Author R I’m not a fan of the horror genre, and in fact have never read Frankenstein nor seen the movie. Yet as a fan of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his young wife and her gruesome creation intrigue me. This biography thoroughly describes the hours when Mary conceived of and wrote her prototype of the novel. It also delineates how Mary refined this manuscript into her first novel and her challenges with publication, as well as showcasing her other novels and uncredited contributions to literature. Author Reef recounts Mary’s life without judgment, an exacting job since “normal family life” the early 19th century was quite different than today. Also, Mary’s family and friends seem particularly eccentric and rebellious. Many are the out-of-wedlock pregnancies and deaths that would be easily preventable today. Elements of male-dominated society pervade Mary’s story. In the end, the author leaves it up to the reader to discern whether or not Mary was a good wife to Shelley, and whether her behavior in any way influenced his untimely death. (My $.02 worth: male-dominated societies make creative women crazy.) Written for young adults, the straightforward delivery of facts is rather dry for elders like me. I realize I’m not the target audience. No doubt my niece, who has kept a copy of Frankenstein in her bookcase since age 15 and abhors flowery language, overuse of metaphor, and run-on sentences will rate this biography higher than 3 stars. At just over 175 pages and packed with photos, it’s worthwhile read for anyone up for a surprising behind-the-scenes look at a classic book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katinka

    How much do you know about the woman who was most famous for having written Frankenstein? I was surprised to learn just how much I didn’t know about her life. She was raised to be highly intelligent and questioned pretty much everything. All of her life she was surrounded by a great number of authors, poets, and other highly educated people. She was a free thinker and while is most famous as the author of “Frankenstein”, she wrote a great number of other books, poems and essays as well. I found How much do you know about the woman who was most famous for having written Frankenstein? I was surprised to learn just how much I didn’t know about her life. She was raised to be highly intelligent and questioned pretty much everything. All of her life she was surrounded by a great number of authors, poets, and other highly educated people. She was a free thinker and while is most famous as the author of “Frankenstein”, she wrote a great number of other books, poems and essays as well. I found her life fascinating, and at times quite heartbreaking. She didn’t always follow conventional standards, and while she did wind up married to the man who was the love of her life, when she first met him he was already married to someone else. Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley possessed what can be described as an epic love for each other, though at times their lives together were also quite tragic. Much of their lives together could be considered scandalous. They ran the complete gambit of emotions, from happy and exciting to lonely and heartbreaking. I won’t spoil their story for you. It is something you really should read for yourself. But I will give you one interesting fact that I had not previously been aware of… you’ll just need to read the book yourself if you want to know the rest of the story behind it…. When Mary Shelley had been dead for a year, her son unlocked her portable desk to discover the remains of her husband’s heart inside. I know that after reading that fact, I couldn’t put the book down until I learned the rest of the story behind it!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kacey

    I already knew some stuff about Mary Shelley prior to reading this, like her hanging out in graveyards when she was younger or her keeping her husband's heart in her desk. But I love learning more about favorite authors, so I was looking forward to reading this. I did learn some things I didn't know. I had no idea she was such a prolific writer, and I'm coming away from this wanting to track down more of her stuff to read. I also didn't know she had close ties with Lord Byron. This book provided I already knew some stuff about Mary Shelley prior to reading this, like her hanging out in graveyards when she was younger or her keeping her husband's heart in her desk. But I love learning more about favorite authors, so I was looking forward to reading this. I did learn some things I didn't know. I had no idea she was such a prolific writer, and I'm coming away from this wanting to track down more of her stuff to read. I also didn't know she had close ties with Lord Byron. This book provided a lot of details about her life, like how she was estranged from her father and how much loss she suffered over the years. The only criticism I would have is that all these details are given out rather quickly. This book isn't even two hundred pages long, and I feel like that's a gross disservice to this fascinating and remarkable woman. I guess it's okay for younger readers but it still feels like a lot of details are glossed over or just touched on too quickly. I also didn't really like that this book summarized the story of Frankenstein. It was unnecessary and took up space that could've been given to Mary's life. Even the epilogue sped through Mary's influence on the world. I guess I'm going to have to find another biography of hers somewhere. I still liked it because I learned things about her I didn't know, but it didn't take enough time with any of the information.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    This book was so well organized, so well written and full of information about Mary Shelley's life, which, perhaps more than any other author I've studied, proves true the old adage that "truth is stranger than fiction." Shelley was a risk-taker and a brave (some would say foolish) teenager who left her home and family to run away with a famous, already-married poet named Percy Shelley. This led to a lifetime of travel and, unfortunately, heartbreak. Mary would go on to lose all but one of her c This book was so well organized, so well written and full of information about Mary Shelley's life, which, perhaps more than any other author I've studied, proves true the old adage that "truth is stranger than fiction." Shelley was a risk-taker and a brave (some would say foolish) teenager who left her home and family to run away with a famous, already-married poet named Percy Shelley. This led to a lifetime of travel and, unfortunately, heartbreak. Mary would go on to lose all but one of her children to diseases and sicknesses, her sister to suicide and, eventually, Percy, to a drowning incident. But amidst the heartbreak and wild adventures, she found the ability to create a story that has now lasted 200 years. Not only that, she wrote other novels, essays, short stories and poems, and proved to be her husband's greatest advocate, even after his death, spreading his poetry and legacy as far as she was able. In truth, her legacy has spread farther, and she will never be forgotten. I struggle to grasp a life lesson from her, as her choices are generally seen by society as the "wrong" way to live, and yet, it worked. She became famous and, if for only small moments amid extreme tragedy, happy. Perhaps the lesson is the same as one we can learn from her greatest work: to treat people well, be brave, and never forget those you love.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This book interested me because I've always been a fan of Mary Shelley's writing. Also, I've studied poetry of the era, and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, is one of my favorite poets from that time. There has always been some scandal surrounding them both and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn more about them. On top of that, nonfiction literature has always been my preferred genre. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading biographical books, early English literature, or This book interested me because I've always been a fan of Mary Shelley's writing. Also, I've studied poetry of the era, and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, is one of my favorite poets from that time. There has always been some scandal surrounding them both and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn more about them. On top of that, nonfiction literature has always been my preferred genre. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading biographical books, early English literature, or major fans of the original horror genre. Anyone looking to read about strong female figures in history should also pick up this book. I wouldn't use this book in a classroom setting, largely because it isn't a supremely important biographical pick. It would be a good book to recommend to some high schoolers as a personal reading book, but I don't think it would serve any real purpose in the actual classroom. While interesting, there isn't a lot to learn or be discussed that relates to subject matter taught to high schoolers. Content advisory: As far as this book is concerned, there is nothing inflammatory besides the mention of potential affairs, illegitimate children, and disease/death.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy 6+

    "Mary Shelley had been dead a year when her son unlocked her portable desk and found the remains of a human heart. The heart, he know, had been his father's (famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley). It had rested in the desk for thirty years, unseen and untouched, since the day in 1822 when Mary tenderly wrapped it in pages of poetry and put it away. Dust and bits of dried-up muscle were all that was left." Such begins the true and tragic tale of the author best-known for her most famous novel, who was "Mary Shelley had been dead a year when her son unlocked her portable desk and found the remains of a human heart. The heart, he know, had been his father's (famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley). It had rested in the desk for thirty years, unseen and untouched, since the day in 1822 when Mary tenderly wrapped it in pages of poetry and put it away. Dust and bits of dried-up muscle were all that was left." Such begins the true and tragic tale of the author best-known for her most famous novel, who was a feminist and free-thinker in a time when such things were unacceptable in society. Lost her husband at a young age, as well as four of her five children. Yet she persevered. "Readers now discovered a writer with imagination, one whose talent was versatile: Shelley had produced a gothic novel and a futuristic one (The Last Man), historical fiction, and stories set in her own time. In her novels, she peered into the dark corners of the human mind and heart. Mary Shelley also used her fiction to comment on social issues, such as the education of women in 'Ladore'." - Catherine Reef "Without imagination we may have a certain cold and acrid circle of principles, but we cannot have sentiments". - William Godwin, Mary's father

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I have really enjoyed all this new material on Mary Shelley. This book is a more in-depth and straightforward biography than the others that have lately come out, and I've enjoyed reading each one. In particular, this one read a little bit drier and fact-full and a little bit slow, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and never lost interest. There were a lot of names to keep up with (the Shelleys had a lot of acquaintances), and sometimes the captions for the illustrations weren't as illuminating as I' I have really enjoyed all this new material on Mary Shelley. This book is a more in-depth and straightforward biography than the others that have lately come out, and I've enjoyed reading each one. In particular, this one read a little bit drier and fact-full and a little bit slow, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and never lost interest. There were a lot of names to keep up with (the Shelleys had a lot of acquaintances), and sometimes the captions for the illustrations weren't as illuminating as I'd have liked. The best part, though, is how Reef manages to slip in some great surprising bits. She starts with the whole Mary-kept-her-husband's-heart-in-a-drawer thing. And just when things get a bit dense, you find out that (view spoiler)[ Shelley met both Aaron Burr and the Marquis de Lafayette, she had a transgender friend, and blasphemy was illegal in England until 2008 (hide spoiler)] . Each of these little tidbits comes at the right time and offers another glimpse into Shelley's life. Which was indeed strange and wonderful. Mary Shelley's unconventional life was one of the many that chipped away at long-held traditions and stereotypes.

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