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Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour

Mary Shelley

by Miranda Seymour

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802139485, Paperback)

She was the daughter of pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and radical philosopher William Godwin, both reviled for their unconventional views. She ran away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was 16 and wrote Frankenstein when she was 19. Three of her four children died in infancy; her husband drowned before she turned 25. Yet Mary Shelley (1797-1851) persevered to write other novels (none so famous as her first), to nurture her husband's literary status (decidedly shaky at the time of his death), and to support her son and acquire a devoted daughter-in-law who was partly responsible for her rather dull posthumous reputation as the quintessential devoted widow. British novelist and biographer Miranda Seymour paints a more nuanced portrait of Mary as a sharply intelligent, sometimes cantankerous woman who did not always graciously suffer Percy's blithe impetuousness and principled infidelities (possibly including one with her stepsister). Guilt at being the innocent cause of her mother's death may have played a part in the genesis of Frankenstein, Seymour acknowledges, but so did Mary's views on slavery, the landscape of Scotland, and the tales she heard there as a teenager of disastrous Arctic expeditions. The story of how Frankenstein came to be written while the Shelleys were vacationing in Switzerland with Byron is well known, but Seymour retells it well. Her strong account of how Mary's character was formed in conflict, first with an unloved stepmother and then with a difficult husband, makes the subsequent 30 years of her life more understandable and almost as interesting as the first quarter century. Drawing on feminist scholarship of the last 30 years but written for the general public, Seymour's lucid biography captures the whole woman, not just the author of Frankenstein or the grieving widow of Percy Shelley. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:50 -0400)

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