A daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, who authored the daring Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and the radical philosopher William Godwin, Mary Shelley grew up amid the literary and political avant-garde of early-nineteenth-century London. Her escape to France at seventeen with the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley caused great scandal at home. The couple’s stormy relationship unraveled as they journeyed across Europe. They ultimately settled in Switzerland where, in 1816, they rented a villa near Lord Byron’s on Lake Geneva. In a famous night of eerie thunderstorms, they told ghost stories and tales of horror, giving birth to the idea of Frankenstein, a monster who has haunted imaginations for nearly two hundred years. The Mary we meet here, brilliantly brought to life by Seymour from previously unexplored sources, is flawed, brave, generous, and ultimately struck by tragedy: she came to lose three of her four children in infancy, and when she was twenty-four Shelley drowned off the coast of Italy.
Gracefully moving through the dramatic life of the woman behind history’s most legendary monster, Miranda Seymour unbuttons a world of brilliant literary figures and vividly re-creates the imaginative time in which Frankenstein was born.