Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey & Júlia Sardà (Illustrator)

I started reading this book last fall at our local children’s bookstore. I didn’t have a budget to purchase it, but knew I needed to read it again. My library had it on order and I have waited for what seems like forever to finally get this book in my hands again. It was worth the wait.

Linda Bailey takes us through the life of Mary Shelley. Her mother, the famous feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, died when she was only eleven days old. Mary, a lonely child, spent her early years reading, writing and daydreaming in front of her mother’s grave.

Not only was Mary influenced by her mother’s writing, her father raised her to read and think. Philosophers, artists, scientists, and writers were regular visitors at their home. Samuel Taylor Coleridge left a lasting impression on her. 

When her father remarried, Mary’s conflict with her stepmother led her to being banished to Scotland. After her return home a few years later, the trouble continued. Soon after, Mary eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelly. Her stepsister, Claire, accompanied them. 

They travelled across Europe, eventually ending up in a house on Lake Geneva with Lord Byron and John Polidori. One dark and stormy night, Byron challenged them all to write a ghost story.

This challenge led to Mary eventually turning one of her “castles in the air” into one of the most famous horror stories ever written. 

Júlia Sardà’s illustrations capture the essence of this Gothic era. The storm image at the house beside Lake Geneva is spectacularly ominous, but each page is full of gorgeously creepy delight. I recommend you take a look the art at her website

As much as I enjoyed the illustrated section of this book, I also loved the author’s note in the back matter. In it Bailey provides additional details about Mary’s life and times. She also makes connections between Mary’s life and her writing process.

Ultimately Linda Bailey shows us how a story like Frankenstein has its roots in many different kinds of experiences.

I especially related to these lines here: “Mary loves stories too. She tries to write the kind that she reads. But the stories she sees and daydreams are the most thrilling of all.” The stories that I try to write do not compare to the stories I see in my “castles in the air” either.

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