Monday, November 05, 2018

Mary's Monster

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. Lita Judge. 2018. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

From the Prologue:
The Creature
Most people didn't believe Mary Shelley,
a teenage girl, unleashed me,
a creature powerful and murderous
enough to haunt their dreams.
They expected girls to be nice
and obey the rules.
They expected girls to be silent
and swallow punishment and pain.
She was cast out from society
because she loved a married man.
Her friends reviled her.
Her father banished her from his home.
But she did not hide.
She was not silenced.
She fought against the cruelty of human nature
by writing.
She conceived me.
I took shape like an infant,
not in her body, but in her heart,
growing from her imagination
till I was bold enough to climb out of the page
and into your mind.
Now Mary is the ghost
whose bones have turned to dust
and it is I who live on.
But hear her voice!
She wrote my story,
and now she will reach beyond the grave
and tell you her own. 
Premise/plot: This biography of Mary Shelley is written in free verse and features black and white illustrations from the author. Her story is told in nine parts--not counting a prologue and epilogue. The format of the book lends itself well to the drama--or melodrama--of Shelley's personal life. Judge does a good job placing her story within the larger context of the times in which she lived.

My thoughts: There have been MANY books published this year about Mary Shelley, and about the creation of Frankenstein. Some are for children; some are for young adults; some are for adults. The ones for children clean things up and focus on her writing and creativity. This one is for young adults. It isn't cleaned up.

Mary's background was radical for her times. Her mother--and to some extent her father--believed in free love (aka sexual freedom). Her father also--at one point at least--was a political radical. Mary was not raised to conform gently and neatly into a little box. She had opinions. She had passions. She had a strong will. Yet she could not escape--or at least not completely escape--the consequences of living out her beliefs. These consequences were largely social but also financial. Mentally, emotionally, Mary Shelley was strained. She endured. She survived. She persevered. But there was nothing easy or comfortable about her life or lifestyle. I'd say EXHAUSTING or DRAINING would sum it up well.

The book does focus on her creativity and imagination. But Shelley's talent is the only thing to catch my notice. Judge has done a great job in her storytelling.

I Am Seventeen
I am daughter to a ghost
and mother to bones. (160)

Shadows Touching
At first, writing feels like falling
where there is nothing to hold on to
to keep from slipping off the edge of the world.
But then the dark presence of another begins to whisper
from the corners of my mind,
and his shadow grows and touches my own.
Together, we take one step toward finding a word,
and then another,
and another,
until the struggle drops away
and the only thing that is left
is everything that matters. (228)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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