Monsters by Sharon Dogar
Published February 7th by Anderson Press
“I am Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley” she says aloud. “I am each of those names and I am myself.”
1814: Mary Godwin, the sixteen-year-old daughter of radical socialist and feminist writers, runs away with a dangerously charming young poet – Percy Bysshe Shelley. From there, the two young lovers travel a Europe in the throes of revolutionary change, through high and low society, tragedy and passion, where they will be drawn into the orbit of the mad and bad Lord Byron.
But Mary and Percy are not alone: they bring Jane, Mary’s young step-sister. And she knows the biggest secrets of them all . . .
Told from Mary and Jane’s perspectives, Monsters is a novel about radical ideas, rule-breaking love, dangerous Romantics, and the creation of the greatest Gothic novel of them all: Frankenstein.
I hate to admit, I’ve never read Frankenstein, I have a nice copy ready and waiting to be read but as someone who tends to read based on my mood quite often I’ve just never found myself with a huge desire to read it, I’ll admit I also tend to steer clear of reading “classics” for whatever reason that I’ve not discovered myself yet. I have found myself curious about its author though, a young girl who essentially created the horror genre and this is why when I heard about a YA retelling of the life of that author I decided to give it a go. This review is as spoiler-free as I can make it but with the life of an important and popular figure like Mary Shelley, there are a few things that are already well known.
First off I would like to say that Monsters is well written and the language flows well, with the age of the characters and the time period I wasn’t sure I would be especially comfortable with the language but I was pleased to find it didn’t hinder me at all and if anything really added to the feel of the piece instead of being too distracting which I have found to be the case with other books written in this time period.
I found this read difficult because although I don’t in any way disagree with the idea of polyamorous relationships or free love when approached in a proper, consenting adult way but I found the way it was addressed by the main characters to be extremely uncomfortable. This may be because of their age but I think most of it came down to the fact that they all seemed to look at in vastly different ways when to me, the most important part of this kind of relationships is to make sure that everyone is on the same page and it didn’t feel like that was happening here. To me, Shelley just seemed to use his radical beliefs as an excuse to run out on his responsibilities where possible and change lovers because he was bored. I understand not wanting to be tied down by marriage and the idea of loving or being attracted to more than one person, even at the same time but this requires a lot more communication than he ever seems to do other than holding his “beliefs” up as a shield when he gets caught out. Mary came across as jealous and not agreeing to the ideals she seems to have romanticised to the extreme and more interested in the feminist side of the ideals being that a woman isn’t held down by marriage and doesn’t become a belonging of the man she loves but honestly it rather felt like this happened to her anyway. Her stepsister Jane, later Clare, I feel was the true believer and actually at some points had the best understanding of what it means to be polyamorous with the only jealousy she feels being more to do with the fact that everyone gets pushed to the side when Mary is involved than with the ideals. Despite seeming a little unbearable to begin with became a favourite character of mine and one of the viewpoints I enjoyed reading the most.
I hadn’t realised how much of a tragic life Mary Shelley led and although this book only goes so far as the finishing of Mary writing Frankenstein there is an afterword at the end which explains what the fate of each of the characters was to be. There are some truly dark moments in this book that are written so especially well that they can really pull you down to a dark place so please be aware of trigger warnings for infant death and suicide. This is a hard book for me to describe and review, its certainly a poignoint, thought-provoking and moving book that brought me to tears a number of times, with great pacing with characters who are immensely complex but it wasn’t enjoyable for me in the way a lot of books are, I enjoy books with some angst and darker themes at times but I think this might have been a bit too real for me personally. Its certainly an incredible read that I think definitely merits attention but I think it should be something that maybe isn’t an impulse buy and that needs to be thought through before reading because this isn’t a love story in the way it first sounds, it’s a story of passion yes but also of pain and fear and loss which I think can be a little overpowering for some, certainly for me.
Thank you so very much to Anderson Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.