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Review of Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
by Lita Judge
High School    Roaring Brook    312 pp.
1/18    978-1-62672-500-3    $21.99

This verse novel based on the life of Mary Shelley gives readers insight into the complex author of Frankenstein, including details about her life and her creative process. Shelley was the daughter of famous literati; her mother died soon after childbirth and her father remarried a wicked stepmother who sent Mary away from home at age fourteen. Mary returned two years later and, scandalously, began an affair with a married man, the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was a fan of her father’s. The tumultuous nature of their life together, including infidelity, poverty, and infant deaths, took a significant toll on her. Judge’s first-person verse covers lots of chronological ground, beginning (after a one-page introduction and a prologue in the voice of “The Creature”) in 1812 with the young girl, alone, on a boat to Scotland. Much of the verse is workmanlike, sometimes melodramatic, but there are moments of true poetry: “She conceived me. / I took shape like an infant, / not in her body, but in her heart, / growing from her imagination / till I was bold enough to climb out of the page / and into your mind.” Even more impressive are the numerous monochromatic watercolor illustrations that envelop the verse, imbuing the work with a gothic atmosphere of gloom, dread, and fate. An author’s note, copious source notes, and a bibliography are appended.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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