Portents and monsters, romance and heartache.
About The Determined Heart by Antoinette May: The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley had an unconventional childhood populated with the most talented and eccentric personalities of the time. After losing her mother at an early age, she finds herself in constant conflict with a resentful stepmother and a jealous stepsister. When she meets the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she falls deeply in love, and they elope with disastrous consequences. Soon she finds herself destitute and embroiled in a torturous love triangle as Percy takes Mary’s stepsister as a lover. Over the next several years, Mary struggles to write while she and Percy face ostracism, constant debt, and the heartbreaking deaths of three children. Ultimately, she achieves great acclaim for Frankenstein, but at what cost?
My two cents
|Portrait of Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell |
(read more here.)
What I liked ...Great intro material to a popular author. For someone like me who hasn't a clue about Shelley as an author, this novel was a perfect crash course not only of her life but of the times in which she lived. This historical fiction piece chronicles a life spent challenging the status quo - and with plenty of heartache and pain -- eventually resulting in a masterpiece of a literary magnitude that continues to provoke to this day.
What really struck me is how young Mary was exposed to feminism, philosophy, and controversial literature by virtue of her parent's own ideals. It's also quite amazing how she constantly was challenging society in the way that she lived her life and consequently in her writing. Writing Frankenstein in and of itself was impressive, but to write it age 21 during a time when women authors were only just breaking into the field as well as have such a profound impact on literature today is even moreso mindblowing.
Her short life was of great success and was also quite tragic. While she had a strong connection to her mother, Mary lost her at a young age. She loved and married a cad (sorry Bysshe, you didn't fool me for a second), had a selfish and conniving stepsister who also became Bysshe's mistress, and lost many children.
Engaging and easy-to-read. The beginning really hooked me with its portents of greatness and doom. Overall, this book was an easy read and the action kept me going. However, I was mainly waiting for the Frankenstein concept to come to life. However at times it felt romance-novelish to me - not necessarily a bad thing, but just did not sit quite right with me given that we're looking at a classics author.
|Portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley|
This is not just about Frankenstein. Maybe I was expecting the creation of Frankenstein to the be-all and end-all of this novel. While it was supposedly the highlight, it lost luster for me and I was a little disappointed. It is a pity - a feel like Frankenstein somehow wasn't given more attention!
Live life fast and leave a beautiful corpse? I had this strange feeling that Mary and Bysshe, as portrayed in this novel, never really grew up. Their lives were lived to the hilt (and extremely tempestuously too) which is why I had a hard time grasping that we're talking about full lifetimes here. Whether it's a function of the short yet packed lives they lived, or the fact that this novel tries to condense their lifetimes into its pages, I felt that the characters never "grew up" or matured. I wanted to like Mary as a character but found her slightly dull despite the exciting life she lived. I found Percy a little more interesting but just too one-dimensional for my liking (a cad is a cad is a cad). Claire Clairmont, Mary's step-sister and Bysshe's mistress, was characterized as having grand ambitions in the beginning but she also never grew up; she simply had an annoying and lingering presence that I felt did not delve too much into the odd symbiotic dynamic that the three of them had.
Verdict: An interesting peek into the life and times of Mary Shelley, creator and author of Frankenstein. It was a so-so read for me and unfortunately didn't make a lasting impression apart from that amazing introduction and unfortunately what I thought was an overly cheesy romantic ending. I'd recommend this to anyone who is clueless about Shelley and wants some good introductory and engaging reading material.
About Antoinette MayAntoinette May is the author of Pilate’s Wife and The Sacred Well and coauthor of the New York Timesbestseller Adventures of a Psychic. An award-winning travel writer specializing in Mexico, May divides her time between Palo Alto and the Sierra foothills.
Find out more on Antoinette May's website.