Book Habit Blog - In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Fiona Sampson

by Fiona Sampson

Frankenstein, published in 1818, was written by a 19-year-old woman who created a story and a creature that has endured for 200 years and looks likely to endure for much longer. Her creation has become a myth we continue to apply to our lives in a myriad of ways – how many creatures assembled through corruption and hubris have stumbled forth into our time?

Mary Shelley’s mother, a writer and radical thinker, dies soon after giving birth to Mary. Her father begins to teach her to read by having her trace the letters of her mother’s name on her gravestone. She learns how to think through reading in her father’s library and by living in a house filled with intellectual and scientific discussion.

Her independence of spirit and her astonishing willingness to take risks reveal themselves fully at 16 when she elopes with the poet Percy Shelley, a man already married and the father of a young child.

Her ambition to become a writer as good as her mother and Shelley come together in the writing of Frankenstein (a book, one might argue, that many more people have read than her husband’s poetry).

Sampson describes much more than Shelley’s best novel. She places Shelley’s life within a vibrant context of love. travels, creation and tragedies. She shows us a woman whose imagination and courage were the equal of any man’s but perhaps more admirable because she labored in a time when women were believed to be inferior.

This is a thrilling book, rich in the voices of Shelley and her contemporaries and in its bringing back to our attention a person deserving of recognition and remembrance.