cover image Her Lost Words: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley

Her Lost Words: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley

Stephanie Marie Thornton. Berkley, $17 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-19842-1

Thornton (A Most Clever Girl) chronicles the lives of two pioneering authors in this stirring narrative. Mary Wollstonecraft is introduced in 1775 as a teenager who is hungry, homeless, and bloodied at the hands of her father, having tried to protect her mother. She’s rescued by a family friend, Mrs. Clare, a reverend’s wife who had previously nurtured the girl’s yearning for knowledge by slipping her a new book to read every Sunday. Reverend Clare does his part to help Wollstonecraft find a better life by getting her a governess job. Wollstonecraft’s first position is short-lived, after she persuades her charges that their education is more important than finding a spouse, but her independent spirit eventually leads to literary success and influence. She dies in 1797 while giving birth to Mary, who adopts her mother’s perspectives on equal treatment for women and the importance of lifelong learning. Mary eventually marries poet and philosopher Percy Shelley, and writes the novel Frankenstein at 18, about a monster whose anger, fear, and sadness reflects her own inner turmoil. Thornton brings a sense of urgency to the women’s inner lives, as well as a fair amount of insight into their work. Much has been written about the authors, but Thornton does justice to their singular lives. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (Mar.)