Sunday 27 September 2015

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Determined Heart reveals the life of Mary Shelley in a story of love and obsession, betrayal and redemption.
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?


It's remarkable to think how young Mary Shelley was when she wrote Frankenstein. Then again, she met Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was fourteen, run away with him when she was sixteen and bore him four children of which only one survived to grow up. What a fantastic and tragic life she lived.

Mary Wollstonecraft died in childbirth so Mary and her older sister Fanny grew up with their father William Godwin who later married Mary Jane Clairmont who already had a daughter called Claire Clairmont. She had a troubled relationship with her stepmother and stepsister. She burns all the bridges when she runs away with Bysshe. Bysshe is already married with a child and a baby on its way. But they are in love and that's all that matters. The problem is that Clair is running away with them and that is the start of a love triangle since Bysshe is all for free love and even encourage Mary to sleep with another man. Still, they stay together and their love story will live on after they both are gone.

I read Passion by Jude Morgan a couple of years ago. Passion takes up the women who loved Shelley, Byron, and Keats. This book focuses on the love story between Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelly, but Lord Byron is also a big part of the story since he had an affair with Claire Clairmont and he was a friend to both Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelly. It's an often tragic book to read because despite the deep love between Mary and Bysshe couldn't he be truly faithful even though she was the woman he loved the most. Mary had to face a life with a man who truly believed that marriage wasn't necessary and they would probably never have married if he didn't want to gain custody of his children with Harriet, the wife he left behind. Also, Mary had to put up with Claire all through her marriage. But the hardest part of this book to read was the death of all the children. One after another died and it's really tragic to think that of all the children Mary gave birth to, only the youngest Percy survived.

I think this book was well written and interest to read. I already have some previous knowledge about the lives and fates of Bysshe and Lord Byron, but I didn't know that much about Mary Shelley and it was intriguing to learn more about her growing up and her life with Bysshe and after his death. Antoinette May has written a really good book and I felt enriched when I finished the book. Not only did I learn more about the characters in this book I learned more about the time they lived in and I really keen on reading more about Mary Wollstonecraft, a woman I have heard about, but not know so much about.

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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