In Search of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson

In Search of Mary Shelley

We know the facts of Mary Shelley’s life in some detail—the death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, within days of her birth; the upbringing in the house of her father, William Godwin, in a house full of radical thinkers, poets, philosophers, and writers; her elopement, at the age of seventeen, with Percy Shelley; the years of peripatetic travel across Europe that followed. But there has been no literary biography written this century, and ...

Details In Search of Mary Shelley

TitleIn Search of Mary Shelley
Release DateJan 18th, 2018
PublisherPegasus Books
GenreBiography, Nonfiction, History, Language, Writing

Reviews In Search of Mary Shelley

  • Sara
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. To coincide with the 200th anniversary of the release of Frankenstein, Fiona Sampson examines the inner influences and background of writer Mary Shelley. I admit I know very little about Mary Shelley other than the fact that she married the famous poet Percy Shelley as a teenager and was widowed at a young age. I have also never read Frankenstein, but nevertheless I was intrigued to...
  • Paula Bardell-Hedley
    Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is remembered above all for creating a monster - the grotesque but perceptive creature from her 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus – although, at the time, she was renown far more for her scandalous behaviour. Following her death in 1851 she was immortalized as widow of the doomed Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and as daughter of the founding feminist philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft and radi...
  • Beth Bonini
    There are three strands to Mary Shelley’s life which biographer Fiona Sampson returns to again and again: first, there is the legacy of her famous feminist mother Mary Wollstonecraft - ‘taking for granted the participation of women as intellectual equals’ (p. 154); then the influence of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom Mary persists in thinking of a ‘soul mate’ despite much evidence to the contrary; and finally the work, the writi...
  • Imi
    Oops. I've just noticed the next episode of this online has expired. I guess that makes this officially a DNF.I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 abridged audio version. I thought it would be interesting to at least vaguely listen to and learn a bit more about Mary Shelley's life, having recently re-read Frankenstein and with it being the 200 year anniversary of its publication.Honestly, it wasn't great and I think that's why I let it expire. I ha...
  • Penny
    4.5It's a brave biographer who sets out her stall so openly, her object being -"to bring Mary closer to us, and closer again until she's hugely enlarged in close-up. I want to see the actual texture of her existence, caught in freeze-frame .......................... and about how it is for her".I hoped this wouldn't mean Sampson trying to answer unanswerable questions with the inevitable plethora of 'we can assume' or 'she might have'. Fortunatel...
  • Louise
    The “girl” of this sub-title made a life altering decision at age 16 that set in motion a dizzying (for its time and ours) 8 year partnership with poet Percy Blythe Shelley. Fiona Sampson traces Mary Shelley’s life with recurrent themes: Mary as an orphan, a disowned daughter, a lonely wife, a person used by relatives and hangers on and a dedicated writer and autodidact.This is a different kind of interpretive biography. Besides being fully...
  • Laura
    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:Mary Shelley was brought up by her father in a house filled with radical thinkers, poets, philosophers and writers of the day. Aged 16, she eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, embarking on a relationship that was lived on the move across Britain and Europe. She coped with debt, infidelity and the deaths of three children, before early widowhood changed her life forever. Most astonishingly, it was while still a te...
  • Aimee
    The information about Mary Shelley was great, but I really struggled with the writing style.The present tense narration felt strange for a non-fiction book, and the author romanticises her subject rather than presenting an unbiased view. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, it's just that I was expecting a more impartial biography and this reads more like very well researched historical fiction, albeit without much of a story line. It do...
  • Rachel Hore
    There's a real sense of urgent enquiry in this biography that makes it compelling to read. Fiona Sampson has to cross-question every piece of evidence about Mary's life, partly because early correspondence and juvenilia have been lost, partly because Mary herself could be reticent about her feelings, and partly because there has been so much obfuscation by others. She evokes well the young Mary's radical literary and philosophical family backgrou...
  • Rachel Pollock
    I read this new biography of Mary Shelley because my department is currently working on a museum exhibit intended to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the publication of FRANKENSTEIN. It's accessibly written and opens with a whole host of situational historical facts for perspective (like the fact that antibiotics were not a thing yet, so people just dropped dead of now-curable diseases all the time). I've long been an enthusiast of the R...
  • Yvonne
    Fiona Sampson takes a look at the woman who was the force behind one of literature’s classic books, Frankenstein is a title recognised around the world. It has been dissected and discussed numerous times, but what about its creator.Mary Shelley wrote this book at the age of 18, two years after her marriage to Percy Shelley, she was at the time considered to be an intellectual thinker. This is a time when women are seen as an object or a piece o...
  • Russell Court
    This just wasn't for me. The story is a fascinating one. A young girl elopes with a married man and goes on to meet many of the names of her time. She travels Europe, frequently one step ahead of her creditors. She has children who sadly die. She proof reads for both Byron and Percy Shelley. And goes on to write one of the classic horror stories as well as many more books and articles. All in all it's a terrific story but I prefer my biographies ...
  • Paula
    My ratings here seem contradictory. I would like to read a biography of Mary Shelley, but I'm not sure I want to read THIS one. The abridged audio was presented in 5, 15-minute segments on BBC, but it wasn't especially enjoyable. The language was very "intellectual", and paired with the reader whizzing through the text, I found it a little hard to follow. There was a lot of the author's perspective and theory... too much, I felt. It could be that...
  • Karen
    There's a lot of speculation in this biography..."We can assume that Mary..." and "Perhaps Mary felt..." which annoyed me. I like facts. However, it does describe how fascinating Mary is. She eloped with a married man at the age of 16, had four children in less than five years (only one survived), published Frankenstein at 21, and was widowed at 24. She was a survivor. The second half of the book, detailing her life with Percy, reads like a salac...
  • Fox
    In Search of Mary Shelley is the first biography I've read of the author outside of brief sketches of her life in the forwards of the various editions of Frankenstein that I've read over the years. My Keats obsession has shown me bits of Shelley and Byron, of course, but Mary has tended to get glossed over by the larger personalities of the poets and writers she surrounded herself with. She's stuck in most minds as the teenaged author sharing a ...
  • Siobhan
    In Search of Mary Shelley is a new biography of the author in time for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein. It aims to look for the person behind the famous novel and her famous poet husband and writer parents (the latter being Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, for those who don’t know much about her life). Of course, other biographies do that too, but Sampson’s is a concise and approachable book that suits a wide a...
  • Athena
    When she was 15 years old, Mary became acquainted with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a fiercely political radical poet, who regarded all forms of authority, including religion, as wicked and disapproved of marriage, even though he was already married, because of the rights it denied to women. Shelley, a great admirer of Godwin, became a frequent visitor in Skinner Street, and he and Mary fell in love.And so it begins Mary’s Shelley remarkable life. The...
  • Erica (ricci.reads)
    ***This title was received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I'm not associated with the author or publisher in any way. All opinions are entirely my own.***Released January 2018, which marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of 'Frankenstein' - the subject of this memoir is a fascinating literary figure to me, not only because she's a woman but incredibly she wrote her most well-known novel at the age of just nineteen. I ha...
  • Anouska
    I enjoyed this biography immensely, it’s beautifully written, well researched, and tangibly evokes the lives of those it considers. But I’m not quite sure that Sampson achieves what she claims she will in her introduction.I think the problem is that this portrait feels so curated, with such imaginative painting of scenes, sections of life removed and glossed over, that it does not feel authentic. That's not to say this is not a valuable work,...
  • Richard Cubitt
    Highly interesting account of the woman who, at 19 years of age, wrote an enduring masterpiece. Considerable overuse of the word 'chiaroscuro' in the early chapters; my only complaint.
  • Paul Taylor
    A sad story of a life compromised by poverty, social forces, personal tragedy and the inequality of opprtunity suffered by women. Sampson's work is well researched (despite vast gaps in the archive) but periodically falls into the trap of putting thoughts into her subject's mind. It is far better to let the reader make their own assumptions as to what Mary may have thought or how she might have reacted : if the reader is so inclined.
  • Jane
    From the distance of 200 years, Mary Shelley's life looks to be composed of high adventure and devastating tragedy. Sampson brings to life the gentle but determined woman at the centre of the storm in a luxuriously literary wild ride into the 19th Century lives of some of the most glittering thinkers of the time.Born towards the end of the 18th Century to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, Mary Shelley had everything and nothing. She was a w...
  • Juli Rahel
    I knew of Frankenstein long before I actually read it. Like many others, I think, I had absorbed the story of the monster, of science gone wrong, through popular culture from an early age on. Frankenstein is a cultural staple, and yet it wasn't until university that I truly started appreciating the woman behind it, the girl, even, who created this cultural phenomenon. It is now 200 years since the novel's publication and interest in the novel and...
  • Wei Li
    Rigorously researched and wonderfully written. One expects tales of triumph and the glittering world of manners and the intelligentsia when one picks up a biography of the woman who wrote Frankenstein and created science fiction. Instead, what we find is Mary Godwin, too precocious by half, married a scoundrel of a genius (no amount of philosophising can excuse the way Percy Bysshe Shelley treated the paramours he invited into his life; when you ...
  • Maria
    As the author of this biography makes clear in the introduction, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is, among many other things, a novel about being human and the anxieties that come with it. Mary herself was all too aware of these with her own, constant struggle to affirm her independence as a human being first, and then as a writer, in a time when women were considered incapable to look after themselves, let alone to write.This book is a succinct bu...
  • Christopher Newton
    I think it's a good shot at a Mary Shelley biography. I learned quite a bit more about the girl, and I've been interested in those early 19th century bohos known as the "Shelley Circle" since I was seventeen and my Freshman English Comp teacher handed the class a list of topics for our term paper, one of which was "Shelley's expulsion from Oxford for atheism". Sounded good to this teenaged boho. I wrote the paper and I've been following Percy and...
  • Steve Perry
    This is simply one of the best and freshest biographies I have read. If you are like me you’ve probably had enough of biographies that are ‘this happened, then this happened, then this happened’ and then trundling along to the death of their subject. Sampson is well-known as a poet, and she brings a poet’s eye for arresting detail to her task, which makes for a gripping narrative, and allows her to achieve the astonishing trick of bringin...
  • Reica Gray
    Although I was very keen to read this and Mary Shelley’s life is fascinating, I’m afraid I found the book more annoying than entertaining. The style grated, which interrupted my engagement with the content. On a number of occasions I had to read the sentence two or three times - either because of a missing comma that would have given it the required clarity or because of its length, or both. The narrative jumps forwards and backwards in time ...
  • Jason Wilson
    Very interesting account of an important life in women’s fiction that more than fulfils it’s mission statement of seeing how the girl who wrote Frankenstein came to be. The combination of science and tainted parenting in the creature is deftly shown from her life. If there is anything to be lamented , apart from that I found the present tense narration unusual for a non fiction book and a job to get used to, it’s that the book’s mission m...
  • Rania Ioannou
    Fiona Sampson paints the portrait of the woman behind Frankenstein and attempts to discover what made a young girl write such a compelling and dark story that still haunts our imagination. Although we know a lot of things about her fictitious monster, and we know more things about the men who surrounded her during her life, how much do we really know about Mary Shelley herself? Sampson's book is not the first biography of the famous author but it...