From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to Frankenstein , a tale of two literary legends—a mother and daughter—discovering each other and finding themselves along the way, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.
1792. As a child, Mary Wollstonecraft longed to disappear during her father’s violent rages. Instead, she transforms herself into the radical author of the landmark volume A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , in which she dares to propose that women are equal to men. From conservative England to the blood-drenched streets of revolutionary France, Mary refuses to bow to society’s conventions and instead supports herself with her pen until an illicit love affair challenges her every belief about romance and marriage. When she gives birth to a daughter and is stricken with childbed fever, Mary fears it will be her many critics who recount her life’s extraordinary odyssey…
1818. The daughter of infamous political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, passionate Mary Shelley learned to read by tracing the letters of her mother’s tombstone. As a young woman, she desperately misses her mother’s guidance, especially following her scandalous elopement with dashing poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary struggles to balance an ever-complicated marriage with motherhood while nursing twin hopes that she might write something of her own one day and also discover the truth of her mother’s unconventional life. Mary’s journey will unlock her mother’s secrets, all while leading to her own destiny as the groundbreaking author of Frankenstein .
Her Lost Words (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible) (AbeBooks Used Book Marketplace)
Trigger warnings: paternal alcoholic violence and domestic abuse at home, and reference to violence against an animal.
I’ve read Stephanie Marie Thornton two times prior to Her Lost Words. First there was American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt by Stephanie Marie Thornton. Then there was And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. I liked both books, but wasn’t overwhelmed by them, in part because I knew so much about the principal characters in the story. In this case, I knew very little about Mary Wollstonecraft or Mary Shelley beyond basic trivia.
The writing is beautiful, at once women’s fiction and also historical fiction at it’s finest. However, while listening to the audiobook, if not paying close attention, the dual timeline could get confusing since both women were named Mary. In the author’s notes, she even mentions how she took liberties with other names because there were so many other characters who shared the same names, so I appreciated that.
I loved reading about strong female characters at a time when women were objects and property of their husbands with no rights of their own. The Marys didn’t think that way, nor did they live their lives that way, either. Mary Wollstonecraft supported herself and was outspoken in her views. She died during childbirth and her daughter, Mary, longs to know her mother beyond her well-known writings. She, too, thinks outside the box, and soon takes up with the poet Percey Shelley.
I can’t imagine being a writer of someone whose own written words were so groundbreaking. There had to have been great pressure, as evidenced in Her Lost Words, as Mary Shelley struggles to create something groundbreaking in her own right. That result: Frankenstein, which created a whole new genre of literature, the science fiction novel.
Both Marys personal lives were complex, and maybe that’s what drove them to rise above society’s norms for women and do what many only dreamed of doing: making a name for oneself with a lasting legacy.
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I loved this book. It is going to be on my best books of the 2023 list. Amazing review!
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