On New Year's Day 1818, a remarkable novel was published: Frankenstein. Two hundred years on, 'Mary's Monster' is a fictionalised biography of the author of this work, Mary Shelley, and is essential reading for anyone reading or re-reading her work.
This year- the 100th anniversary of some women being granted the right to vote in Parliamentary elections- there has been much talk of Mary Wollstonecraft, best known as the author of 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' in 1792; there has been less about her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, author of 'Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus'.
Written in free verse, 'Mary's Monster' is divided into nine parts, each from Mary's point of view, 'as a tribute to the nine months Mary spent writing the complete draft of her novel.' A prologue and epilogue in 'The Creature's' voice speak directly to the modern reader.
Beginning in 1812, the story starts with Mary alone, sent away from home at the insistence of her step-mother. On her journey to Scotland, she recalls details of her childhood- the death of her mother just after Mary's birth, her relationship with her father, his re-marriage. Mary has two happy years in Scotland before being summoned home where things have not improved.
From here, Lita Judge pieces together the sad story of Mary's life and the events that led to the creation of 'Frankenstein'. Often painful reading, the atmospheric, evocative illustrations add hugely to the often sombre mood as event after event take their toll on Mary. It is an amazing piece of work- haunting, poignant and a much needed study of her life. You cannot help but wonder at the resilience, determination and devotion of this long-suffering woman and be fascinated by how these events shaped both the woman and her writing.
The obvious care taken in the research for this novel and the author's notes which make clear where she has drawn conclusions and made omissions makes this the perfect companion for those reading 'Frankenstein' as well as a fascinating story in its own right. Additional biographical notes on each character, references and notes all add to the book's appeal.
Definitely one for older readers, 'Mary's Monster' is stunning- a real masterpiece.
Mary's Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Wren and Rook ISBN: 978-1526360410