Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein

Stephanie Hemphill, Author
Stephanie Hemphill. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-185331-9
Reviewed on: 09/09/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4676-6267-3
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-228495-2
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-06-220923-8
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Hemphill’s fictional autobiography-in-verse of Mary Shelley focuses on her domestic life, which makes for a gripping story while diminishing its subject. Mary’s awe for her famous philosopher father sets the stage for her hero-worship of her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary girlishly finds his interest in her flattering, and he leaves his wife to run away with her, scandalizing Mary’s family. Shelley tells Mary she has “great things to write./ It is your lovely fate,” and treats her as an intellectual equal; Hemphill (Wicked Girls) portrays writing and motherhood as Mary’s greatest joys. However, Mary also idealizes Percy despite his clear failings: financial mismanagement, jealous hypochondria during her pregnancies, and a selfish interest in free love, including a likely lengthy affair with her stepsister as they “travel as a threesome/ once again like/ some tiresome, rickety wheelbarrow.” Painting Mary’s feelings about Percy as simplistic devotion, despite his repeatedly appalling behavior, makes her a frustrating character as time goes on. Hemphill’s verse can be elegant, but also jerky and staccato, limiting the story’s complexity and, ironically, Mary’s ability to express herself. Ages 13–up. (Oct)
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