4 out of 4 stars
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Frankenstein Diaries: The Romantics. The Secret Memoirs of Mary Shelley by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Michael January sheds light into the Romantic era of the 1800’s. This historical fiction novel is recommended to anyone who is interested in the lives of the romantics Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Mary Shelley is most famous for the classic horror novel Frankenstein. If you have not read it yet, I implore you to do so! No movie adaptation has done this book justice. There is much speculation on the inspiration of Mary Shelley’s tale. I was expecting this book to explore the actual writing of Frankenstein, which was written for a contest with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron on who could write the spookiest tale. This book is something far different but no less fascinating.
This journal describes the time when Mary, at age sixteen, eloped with poet Percy Shelley, and with her younger sister traveled across Europe. The events described take place about two years before the writing of Frankenstein. This journal provides a subtle but illuminating look into the lives and times of these writers.
This book is said to be recreated from secret letters found long after Mary Shelley’s death. I’m unsure where the true diary ends and the conjecture comes in. The voice remains consistent throughout and I applaud collaborator Michael January for that. I know the basics of the lives of these authors, and everything in the book sounds plausible.
The read was enjoyable and captures the feel of this time period. The inspiration for Frankenstein is interspersed throughout the book. From joining conversations on religion and philosophy with her father and his friends, to her stilted relationship with her stepmother and her grief over her own mother’s death, we can see the events that shaped Mary Shelley’s life and inspired her writing.
The story’s pacing is appropriate for a tale of a leisurely tour through the countryside. During the course of reading, I was able to feel the pleasures of exploring the beautiful European landscape interspersed with the discomforts of being short on money and dealing with rude people and poor housing. Character development is very fleshed out. The action is character-based, and explores the interpersonal drama between the characters, especially Mary and her little sister.
Percy Shelley’s ideals of “free love” are explored: what it means, its complications, and the shock it caused during this time period. Readers also get a glimpse at the political climate across Europe at the time. I was able to learn about Mary Shelley’s upbringing and the impact that her feminist mother made during this time when religion and social mores made things very oppressive for women.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My one complaint is that I am unsure how much of the book was actually written by Mary Shelley. I was left confused by that. Otherwise, the book was amazing. I have more of an understanding of the inspiration for Frankenstein and more appreciation for Mary Shelley’s life and the Romantic Era in general after reading this book.
Frankenstein Diaries: The Romantics
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