Review Blog

Feb 11 2015

Summer of monsters by Tony Thompson

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Black Dog Books, 2014. ISBN 9781742032252
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended, Frankenstein, Horror, Fictionalised biography. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote a seminal feminist book, A vindication of the rights of women, but died five years later after her daughter was born. The girl, named for her mother, had an erratic upbringing. Her father took her daily to visit her mother's grave and eventually succumbed to the attentions of a woman who he married, a woman Mary despised. At the time great interest was shown in medical things, Mary and her father once attended an experiment where Dr Aldini used electric currents to try and bring them back to life a recently hanged man. Dinner conversations with learned men were commonplace at their home, and Mary sat and listened, but the new woman in the household clashed constantly with Mary. She was sent off to Dundee to stay with friends.
Coming back to London when she was sixteen, she met the poet, Shelley and eloped with him to Europe along with her step sister, Clare. Here they lived a nomadic life, shocking conventional attitudes, attracting ridicule and even abuse. Mary Shelley as she became went on to write the most famous horror story of all time, Frankenstein.
This fictionalised biography of Mary and her companions is enthralling. The background of the time is captivating, giving the reader a sound basis to look at their lives within the context of the early years of the nineteenth century. Conventions were put aside by Shelley and others in his circle, a circle which included the poet Byron, and in 1816 in Geneva, they were challenged to write a ghost story by Dr John Polidoris, another member of the group, later to write the first modern vampire novel. Mary wrote the beginnings of her novel, Frankenstein, bringing together all the sights and discussions she had seen and been involved in during her life, writing a book that has been rewritten, republished, filmed and parodied ever since. Thompson's book is utterly fascinating and brings to life the strange characters that made up the group around Byron and Shelley, poets who died within eight years of that summer in Geneva.
Fran Knight

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