A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

16169845I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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!

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  • This book sounds like it has a great premise. I know a little of Mary and Percy’s life. I have also read Frankenstein which I adore!

    • Then maybe you should read this one! 🙂

      I still want to read Frankenstein.

  • Looks so interesting! I will have to look for it-thanks!

    • It is quite interesting! Because I don’t know their history I was not sure which parts were true and which were fiction so that was good. I just got bored with the book after a while 🙁

  • I read and loved Frankenstein but don’t know anything about the author, so I will definitely check this one out.

    • I hope you find the book interesting!
      I must still read Frankenstein.

  • Isi

    The story sounds really interesting, with famous author’s secrets and so on, but it’s a shame you didn’t get hooked on it.
    I haven’t read Frankenstein either, but I’m not keen on reading it for the moment, perhaps later on. Rebecca’s video review didn’t make me want to read it 😉

    • I remember watching Rebecca’s review, but can’t remember whether she liked it or not. The story is interesting, I think it’s just the way it was written…

  • Wasn’t Percy a famous poet? And didn’t Mary run off with him at some point? That’s basically all the history I have on these two. From a historical standpoint this sounds quite interesring, but I really need to connect with the characters to like a book… The cover’s pretty though. 🙂

    • Yes he was a famous poet, and he left his wife for Mary, apparently. I think I only knew of Mary because of the book “Frankenstein”. I do however think even if I knew their story, this book was written in a way that I didn’t follow it as I should have. I must admit that once I read her research, she did fill in the gaps nicely… I just got bored with the story after a while.

  • There seems to be a trend in historical fiction to write about real people who are familiar to us but we know very little about. Frankly, these books are hit or miss for me. Your review has piqued my interest in this one.

    • This was definitely a miss for me. If you are a Netgalley member, maybe you can still check it out for review. If you do, I hope you have a better experience.

  • I often read books like these where they take a real person and a part of his life an write a fictional story on it. In my experience it is important to know more about this person if you really want to connect. On the other hand it can be fun to get to “know” someone like that. I saw this book on netgalley and indeed decided not to request it because I did not know anything about Mary Shelley. Hope you enjoy your next read!

    • I agree with knowing a little more about the person. I knew she wrote Frankenstein, but that’s about all. I’ve seen a few other reviews where people had a similar experience – the story line was just dragging. I doubt that I would’ve enjoyed it if I knew more about Mary or Percy.

  • I have read Frankenstein but don’t love it. It’s a shame this one was a bit on the boring side, because I imagine her life was rather interesting.

    • I am yet to read Frankenstein, but I won’t be doing so anytime soon. I think her life must have been interesting, it’s just that this book wasn’t.

  • Melinda, thanks for your review. I have this on my Kindle but have yet to read it. I know something of the history of the Shelleys but probably not enough to figure the book out completely. Intend to read it just because I’m a fan of historical fiction. Thanks for your honesty in your review.

    • I hope that you enjoy the read, Sherrey.
      I didn’t know the history of the couple, but looking back it sure was an interesting, deceitful and twisted story (the fictional retelling that is). However, when reading the book there were parts of the story I found to be dragging. Maybe it was just the way it was written.

  • It does sound pretty fascinating 😀 I think I would like it

    • I hope you do, once you decide to read it 🙂

  • Sounds cool, Mel! Thanks for the review!

    • I remember you did a video review of Frankenstein, I just cant remember if you liked it? This is definitely an interesting fictional retelling of the author’s life, I just wish I enjoyed it more.

      • I thought it was interesting. . . I liked certain things about it but I was not happy with other parts. For instance, Frankenstein’s monster was MADE by Victor Frankenstein, but then he shunned his own monster. The monster only became angry when shunned by people INCLUDING his creator. I didn’t like that he was created and then shunned by his creator.

        • Ok. I’ll probably read Frankenstein too, but not soon.

  • This books sounds really good! I am definitely going to read it – I loved Frankenstein in college, it was such a sad story though. I don’t know much about the lives of the Shelley’s, but now I want to learn it.

    • I hope you will like it once you read it, Erin! I am still to read Frankenstein and I will, because I’m curious about Mary’s work.

  • I don’t find the storyline gripping… sorry 🙁 I must agree with Annie, the cover is pretty 🙂 & as always, you write your reviews beautifully.

    • Thanks for the lovely comment. The cover is lovely, yes, but the book was lacking for me. I doubt that you would enjoy reading it.

  • I also didn’t like this book (http://bloggeretterized.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/read-reviewed-a-fatal-likeness). The only thing to like is the cover. Lynn Shepherd really seems to despise Mary Shelley. The fiction she created about non-fiction was hard to follow and too much. Like I said in my review, this book is not for the plain reader who might get the wrong idea of who these people really were, it is for the Romantics connoisseurs.

    • I commented on that post when I checked out your blog 🙂 I also think the cover drew me in. The book dragged a bit for me