Monday, January 25, 2016

Almost Invincible by Suzanne Burdon

"She is singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything else she undertakes, almost invincible." Mary Shelley began Frankenstein in 1814, when she was eighteen. By then, she had been living for two years in a scandalous relationship with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married with children. The novel was conceived in a contest with him and Lord Byron to tell ghost stories. When she eloped with Shelley, Mary had been quite prepared to suffer condemnation from society. It was much harder to cope with her jealousy of Claire, her step-sister, who had run away with them and was also in love with Shelley. During the nine turbulent years Mary and Shelley were together, Claire was the ever-present third, whose manipulative behaviour often drove Mary to despair. Shelley was little help - his unconventional attitudes to love strained her devotion to its limits. They moved constantly throughout England, Switzerland and Italy, escaping creditors, censorious families and ill health. It was in Italy that they found their spiritual home, their 'paradise of exiles', but it was also there that the loss of her children nearly broke Mary's spirit. Her writing became her grip on sanity, and Shelley never wavered from his belief in her creative genius - as she believed in his.

The life and creativity of Mary Shelley continues to fascinate long after her death. In this version of her life, we are given a close glimpse into the people that helped shape her destiny - how the death of her writer mother impacted her, how her love for Percy Bysshe sucked her into a lower status and a bit of a debauched social life, her relationship with Lord Byron, and the responsibility she carried for her step-sister Claire Clairmont. Her loves, her sources for inspiration, and her talents are highlighted in wonderful detail. 

The book's pace is slow, but it is a biographical and is to be expected because of the research and details that have been included. Mary was not afraid to break with convention and face scandal. I think it is this that fascinates readers because she is of the Victorian era with strict morals and social norms. If you're looking for an accurate, rich, and descriptive biography about Shelley, then this is the book to read! Very well done!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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