The night of August 30, 1797, was stormy, with a dramatic display of thunder and lightning. It is fitting, then, that this night also saw the birth of Mary Godwin, for Mary Godwin Shelley led a stormy and unconventional life. Hers was a life filled with drama. There was the elopement with Percy Shelley and their trek across Europe with her stepsister tagging along. Never mind that he was married at the time and had a child. Then there was the visit with Lord Byron on the shores of Lake Geneva that led to the birth of Frankenstein’s monster. And by the time she was 25 she had suffered the deaths of three of her four children and the senseless drowning of her husband.
This biography of Mary Shelley is punctuated with accounts of eighteenth and nineteenth century scientists. Their fascination with electricity and their hope that this marvel could be used to reanimate the dead led to bizarre experiments. And of course there are stories of the grave robbers who supplied the necessary corpses. All of this prodded Mary Shelley’s imagination and led to Victor Frankenstein’s success where others had failed.
I enjoyed the book and felt that the background information about the interest in reanimation helped to explain the intellectual climate of the era. Sometimes, though, it was bit disquieting when the scene shifted abruptly from the affairs of the Shelleys to murders, dissections and body-snatchers.
eGalley review Publication date 2.5.13