Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Angelmonster by Veronica Bennett

This novel is a fictionalized account of Mary Shelley's life. What is so tantalizing about this novel is the fact that all of what occurs in one way or another honestly happened. All the scandal and love isn't made up simply to be a page turner.

Young sixteen year old Mary believed in the radical ideas of parents and thought the only worthy lover was a poet. One day, in her father's bookshop, she met the young and attractive poet known as Shelley. Soon he came to call upon the family, taking Mary and her sister Jane on walks. Before long he seduced her, despite the fact that he was already married, bringing shame to Mary's family. She, though, deeply loved Shelley and the two ran off together with her sister. And so begins the passionate and scandalous affair, highlighted with the repeated births and deaths of their children, travels, and the rejection of her own family. They also form a friendship with Lord Byron, known to them as George, who fascinates Shelley and seduces her sister who suddenly changes her name to Claire. All the while Mary is haunted by a story that she heard on a boat about an alchemist who used dead body pieces to create another person. Inspired by the story, Mary eventually puts pen to paper, writing her most popular story: Frankenstein.

This book in and of itself is an enjoyable read. There are few slow points with the repeated ups and downs of Mary's life as she struggles to make sense with the love and life she's leading. I wouldn't say that the story is "haunting" as the cover claims, but it is still a fascinating tale. What really blows my mind about the novel is the truth behind it. Granted, the author did take some liberties (like the order of certain events and exclusion of certain characters in Mary's life) but the majority of the intriguing aspects of Mary's life are true. While there is an author's note that speaks some more about Mary's biography, this book drove me to look up more about Mary Shelley. It is just unbelievable all that this woman went through.

Angelmonster turned out to be a really interesting novel. While not all information is historically accurate, it is an entertaining way to learn about the author of Frankenstein. Definitely worth the read.

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