Do you know who Mary Shelley is? She is the wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelly, but some might know her better as the author of Frakenstein. I have not read this book (Frankenstein), but I do know that it is immensely popular. As for Percy, I had no idea who he was until I’ve read this book.
A Fatal Likeness tells the story of Percy and Mary Shelley, by blending historical facts and fiction. Charles Maddox is a detective hired by Jane Shelley, Mary’s daughter in law, to investigate documents that are in possession of Mary’s step-sister that might destroy the poet and his wife’s legacy. Mary is still alive during the telling of this story (1850), but Percy has already passed on. Charles starts his investigation, upon which he finds that he was hired only because his great uncle worked for them back in 1816. He took over his great uncle’s business and therefore to assist in his quest, he goes through his uncle’s documentation to support his investigation, but upon doing so he finds missing pages…
After reading what he could find and interviewing Mary’s step-sister, Claire Clairmont, Charles is not quite sure whose version of the story he believes: Mary’s or Claire’s. Claire and Mary both paint each other in a bad light. Claire claims Percy was in love with her and Mary is crazy and Mary in turns does the same. At this point in time, I believed Claire, but as the story progresses, I then find myself believing Claire might be lying and that Mary is telling the truth. Charles discovers that this Shelley family has dark secrets which involves the death of his first wife Harriet, who he supposedly left for Mary AND the death of 3 of his children. What he discovers is the horrible “truth” of the life of Percy, Mary and Claire…
The author, Lynn Shepherd, sure did a great job in delving into the history of the poet and his wife. She extensively explains her research at the end and where she attempts to fill in the missing pieces which cannot be found in historical records. I must admit that my personal experience with reading this novel was not that good. I, for once, do not know the background of the life of Percy, Mary and Claire, but I doubt that it would have helped if I did. I found large parts of the novel difficult to follow and couldn’t connect with the characters. This resulted in me finding the story a bit boring. There are some parts of the novel where I was very interested in the deceit, the gruesome “truth” of the death of their children and Mary’s bad behaviour.
Do you know Mary’s history, or at least the facts that is available? If you’re a fan of the book Frankenstein and the author, or if you are curious to see which parts of their history was “filled in”, I’m sure you will find this fictional retelling of Mary and her husband’s life interesting.
This novel will be published tomorrow, 20 August 2013!