I've been reading an interesting book lately, in between chasing children and weeping uncontrollably. It's called The Monsters: Mary Shelley & the Curse of Frankenstein. The Man brings home all sorts of bizarro stuff from the library, and being a half-comatose invalid, I basically take what I can get and read it all. Some of it's bad. Some of it's good. This book is fascinating.
Mostly I say that because of the research that obviously went into it. Now, the people who wrote this book, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, were consummate professionals at researching biographies by the time they got to this one. The "Also by" page lists another 18 nonfiction titles to their credit. Their specialty seems to be analysis and interpretation of the facts, not mere reporting of each one. Their skill at this impressed me, and as many of you know, that's not easy to do.
But about the story. As you've guessed, the book traces the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of the novel Frankenstein, but it goes so far beyond that that you may forget who this "Mary" person is they mention from time to time. Her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, is obviously a major factor in her life, but long before he arrives on the scene, we experience the stories of Mary's parents, who were also important and well-known in the literary and philosophical circles of late 18th-century Britain. As the book progresses, we learn in great detail how deep Lord Byron's involvement reached in the Shelleys' life (along with some fascinating tales of his personal habits and character).
We watch the heartbreak of women who, in the attempt to live according to their principles, lose parents, children, husbands, lovers, fortunes, reputations, homes, health, hope, and happiness. I was fascinated to note how pivotal in the saga was Mary's stepsister Claire, who seems to have had less strength of character and intellect than nearly everyone, yet seems to destroy nearly everything she touches. Maybe I'm overanalyzing things. Anyway, it's a fascinating read. If you happen across this book and have a couple extra days lying around, pick it up. Read it. Devour it. Ponder it. But for heaven's sake don't let it near your kids.