Books Genre Lifespan of a Reader Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Middle Grade Nonfiction novel in verse Poetry Poetry Friday Reading Themes Young Adult (YA) Literature

[Poetry Friday] The Act Of Creation As A Form Of Redemption in “Mary’s Monster”

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge.

poetry friday

Myra here.

I am back for Poetry Friday! Thank you, Buffy Silverman of Buffy’s Blog, for hosting this week.

When I first heard of this novel-in-verse and discovered that it was a biography of the Mother of Science Fiction, Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, I knew I just have to get it for our current reading theme.

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

Written and Illustrated By: Lita Judge
Published by: Wren & Rook (2018)
ISBN: 1526360411 (ISBN13: 9781526360410). Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I am familiar with Lita Judge’s picturebooks (Fats reviewed her One Thousand Tracings while I reviewed her Red Sled a few years back). This novel-in-verse-cum-biography, however, extends her artistry even further, as she gives voice to the teenage runaway who hooked up with a married man and created a nightmarish story that continued to live on, even as she has descended pretty much into obscurity (story of most women’s lives unfortunately).

I thought I’d share the Prologue with you, as Mary Shelley’s Creature speaks and provides the introduction to her tragic life:

I could not stop reading this masterpiece by Lita Judge. Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women, but she died soon after she gave birth to Mary. Her father, William Godwin was a famous philosopher, journalist, and novelist. He made the fatal mistake of remarrying Mary Jane Clairmont Godwin, a fierce virago of a woman who seemed straight out of an evil-stepmother archetype. Unable to get along well with Mary, she was sent to virtual strangers to live in Scotland, which became more like a home to her than anywhere else.

She stayed with a warm and loving family for two years, where Mary got to know her mother’s writings, which ultimately served as her second birth. Mary drew strength from the rocks, wind, sea, and the poetry and novels that found their way to her. When Mary returned to England, her family was still buried in a mountain of debt, which was to be remedied by a “spiritual son” who was taken by her father’s writings, a poet named Percy Bysshe Shelley who wanted to put his inheritance into good use by supporting brilliant men like Mary’s father.

Admittedly, I ended up hating Percy Bysshe Shelley by the time I finished reading this book. He was fickle, inconstant, weak, self-absorbed, and preyed on vulnerable, wide-eyed, young women who found his darkness, brilliance, and poetry irresistible. This included both Mary and his step-sister, Claire, not even counting his young wife who was pregnant with his baby when he started wooing Mary.

Yet, this book, as steeped as it is in pain, death, grief, and compromising one’s personhood for love, is ultimately redemptive. Mary found a sense of liberation by choosing to love Percy, regardless of how she was shunned by her family and society at the time. And more than anything, she found redemption through her own writing, Frankenstein, being her monster masterpiece, which she initially published anonymously, because as her publisher explained, the work would not be taken that seriously if it was known that the author was a woman.

Yet, it was this act of creation that allowed Mary Shelley to breathe again. I am sure fellow Poetry Friday enthusiasts would agree. This, right here, is my Poetry Friday offering to all of you (alongside the Prologue shared above).

This book is as good as everyone says it is. The art is masterful – as you can see from some of the images above, the poetry pitch-perfect, and the research Lita Judge has done on Mary Shelley’s life extensive. Mary Shelley shines in this narrative, and it is to Lita Judge’s credit that she has given voice to this formidable teenage runaway who lived life by her own rules, and no one else’s.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: United Kingdom

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

9 comments on “[Poetry Friday] The Act Of Creation As A Form Of Redemption in “Mary’s Monster”

  1. I didn’t/don’t know much about Mary Shelley’s life. What you’ve shared is stunning, and I look forward to reading this book. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindabaie

    Sad to say I have it, but still have not read it. I know that I will love it as you have written, Myra. Thanks for the big nudge! Lita Judge is a favorite, and now this wonderful book from her, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. maryleehahn

    You hooked me! I MUST read this now!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joyce Ray

    What a beautiful book, Myra. I’ve read Through the Tempests Dark and Wild, a picture book by Sharon Darrow for a younger audience. Lita’s book seems perfect for young adults. Such haunting illustrations. I can’t wait to see this book in person!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow–this looks like a terrific book! I too have read some of Lita Judge’s picture books–amazing that she wrote and illustrated something so dark and different.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An entrancing review, Myra – I will have to seek out this book! Dark and strong and beautiful. Thanks for featuring.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kay Mcgriff

    I didn’t know much about Mary Shelley’s life, but I definitely want to learn more now. Thank you for sharing this review.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Round Up of My Literary Journey and My Best in Books Across Quarterly Reading Themes – Gathering Books

  9. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Frankenstein’s Mother in 2018 Nonfiction Picturebooks – Gathering Books

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