Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein turned 200 in January 2018, and Mary was just 20 years old when she wrote it.
It all came about because of a dark and stormy night in 1814. Mary, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and another friend, decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. They all had a go, but only Mary’s has lasted and of course it has spawned a huge number of films, cartoons, plays, sequels, art, ballet, an interactive e-book and even comedies.
I am personally not all that fond of the novel, but what I do find fascinating is Mary Shelley’s life. She was the daughter of feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft, who died giving birth to Mary, and of author, bookseller and philosopher William Godwin. Mary eloped with one of the greatest poets who has ever trod this earth, had many pregnancies and babies (only one of whom survived to adulthood), had to cope with his liberal views on free love and then his drowning at age of 29, and went on to write many more novels, none of which ever sold as well as Frankenstein. If you want to know more about Mary Shelley, I can strongly recommend The Godwins and the Shelleys by William St Clair which is a fabulous read, and Miranda Seymour’s excellent biography Mary Shelley. And of course the superb biographer Richard Holmes has written Shelley: The Pursuit (my copy of that wonderful book is still full of sand because I spent so much of a NZ beach holiday unable to put it down!).
What do you think of the book Frankenstein? Do you have a favourite film, cartoon, play or sequel? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment.
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