cover image Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley

Muriel Spark. Dutton Books, $19.95 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24535-3

This is a revised and welcome version of Spark's acclaimed first book, Child of Light, which was published in England in 1951 and only now appears here. Mary Shelleydaughter of two progressive thinkers, the philosopher William Godwin and the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft; for eight years the wife of the poet Shelley; and author of Frankenstein, the first important work of science fictionis a figure of abiding appeal. Spark covers the facts of Mary's life (her upbringing, elopement with Shelley, friendship with Bryon, the struggle to support herself and her son by the pen after Shelley's death); in part two she brings her astute critical intelligence to bear on Mary's novels, principally Frankenstein and the futuristic The Last Man, and Mary's posthumous editing of Shelley's poetry. Most of the literary currents of the time met in Mary Shelley, including gothicism and idealistic romance. Her essentially down-to-earth temperament tugged against the last two, but that simply adds to her interest. Illustrations. (July 29)