AngelMonster – Veronica Bennett

Veronica Bennett reimagines the life of Mary Shelley, author of the novel Frankenstein, in her novel AngelMonster. It is 1814 and Mary is a smart but dreamy 16 year old. She and her sister, Jane, often imagine finding true love with a poet because  as Mary remarks, “a poet is the only acceptable sort of lover these days.”

Jane and I had often discussed the possibility of falling in love with a poet. If poetry was any measure of a man, we had observed, everything we longed for in a lover – romance, desire, spirit, soul – was clearly contained in it.

Into Mary’s life (well, her father’s bookshop) walks Percy Shelley. Not yet the super-star poet he was to become he is nevertheless known as someone to watch and certainly meets Mary’s criteria for a lover. And lovers they become, even though Shelley is already (at the tender age of 20) married with children.

AngelMonster is a thoroughly modern tale. It’s kind of like reading a memoir from a current celebrity. It drops names ( Lord Byron and Polidori are companions of Shelley’s) and is full of dalliances and intrigues and twisted love triangles. Young readers, especially those who dismiss poetry and classic fiction as boring, might be intrigued by the flesh and blood people who actually lived and wrote these works that have endured.

Mary herself is an interesting character.  Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was one of the first feminists and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. (Wollstonecraft died a few days after Mary was born.)  Her father  was the writer and political journalist,  William Godwin. Mary herself is clearly intelligent, but youth makes her romantic and dreamy. Still, she wrote Frankenstein when she was just 21. As Bennett writes her, she is young but determined. Her affair with Percy is ill-advised, but she loves him and sticks with him even when he doesn’t deserve it. She is a thoroughly modern creation.

I think AngelMonster would be a great companion to a  young adult’s study  of the works of Byron,  and both Percy and Mary Shelley.

30 Day Book Meme – Day 15

Favourite female character.

I loved the characters, Sue and Maude, in Sarah Waters’ phenomenal novel Fingersmith.  The story is told, first from Sue’s point of view and then from Maude’s and it’s hard to imagine loving either of them given the nasty business they’re messed up in. But Waters’ Victorian-era novel is so layered and rich and exciting and the characters so fully-realized and compelling…it’s almost impossible not to empathize with and root for both girls.

I also love Sara Crewe from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princes.

Of course the greatest power Sara possessed, and the one which gained her even more followers than her luxuries and the fact that she was ‘the show pupil’, the power that Lavinia and certain other girls were most envious of, and at the same time most fascinated by in spite of themselves, was her power of telling stories and making everything she talked about seem like a story, whether it was one or not.

It is Sara’s imagination which sustains her when hope is lost. I admired that quality so much when I was a child, and I still do.

Other female characters I admired: Jo from Little Woman; Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre; Anne from Anne of Green Gables

The girls from my youth. Girls with spirit and full-hearts and hope.