Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley
Charlotte Gordon. Random, $30 (672p) ISBN 9781-4000-6842-5
The relationship between Mary Shelley (1797-1851) and the mother she never knew—Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), author of the incendiary tract A Vindication of the Rights of Women, who died 10 days after her daughter’s birth—is explored with remarkable insight and perspicacity in this exhilarating dual biography from Gordon (Mistress Bradstreet). The book illustrates the similarities between mother and daughter by devoting alternating chapters to their lives. Both were raised in emotionally turbulent households (although Shelley’s offered more intellectual stimulation); both had to leave home to find their identities as writers; and both lived as adults under the shadow of scandal—Wollstonecraft for her outspoken feminism and marriage to liberal political philosopher William Godwin, a critic of matrimony, and Shelley for her role in the notorious Byron-Shelley literary circle. Gordon’s perceptive reading of both women’s published works illuminates their core ideas, including complementary critiques of patriarchy, and identifies the emotional fault lines caused by the drama in their lives. Her lucid prose and multifaceted appraisal of Wollstonecraft, Shelley, and their times make warm-blooded and fully fleshed-out people of writers who exist for readers today only as the literary works they left behind. Agent: Brettine Bloom, Kneerim, Williams, & Bloom.
Reviewed on: 03/23/2015
Other - 473 pages - 978-0-8129-9651-7
Paperback - 672 pages - 978-0-8129-8047-9