《科學怪人》作為「科幻小說」的始祖，占據文學史上無可置疑的里程碑位置。多數讀者對這本書的作者──瑪莉‧雪萊Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley──認識卻相對地不多。除了十六歲時，私奔一般地與英國浪漫主義詩人玻西‧雪萊Percy Shelley結婚。以及兩人那場與詩人拜倫Lord Byron等一同遊歷歐洲的關鍵旅程──在閒散無趣的夜晚，決定展開恐怖故事創作比賽──催生《科學怪人》的誕生。在這些被人作為軼事談論與稱頌的傳奇片段之外，瑪莉‧雪萊是一位怎樣的女性？
作者費歐娜‧桑普森Fiona Sampson潛入過去，從瑪莉‧雪萊遺留下來的信件、日記、記錄，拼湊出這位不凡女性的面貌，也是對19世紀社會的映照。作為當時激進、前衛份子的女兒，瑪莉‧雪萊的母親Mary Wollstonecraft被公認為女性思覺的啟蒙份子，卻在生下瑪莉六天之後病逝；瑪莉‧雪萊的父親，不僅是當時有影響力的政評家，家中總不乏思想家、詩人、科學家…各界人士造訪，滋養瑪莉‧雪萊的知識與思辨力。
Published for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, this is a major new work of biography by a prize-winning writer and poet.
Mary Shelley was brought up by her father in a house filled with radical thinkers, poets, philosophers and writers of the day. Aged sixteen, she eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, embarking on a relationship that was lived on the move across Britain and Europe, as she coped with debt, infidelity and the deaths of three children, before early widowhood changed her life forever. Most astonishingly, it was while she was still a teenager that Mary composed her canonical novel Frankenstein, creating two of our most enduring archetypes today.
The life story is well-known. But who was the woman who lived it? She’s left plenty of evidence, and in this fascinating dialogue with the past, Fiona Sampson sifts through letters, diaries and records to find the real woman behind the story. She uncovers a complex, generous character - friend, intellectual, lover and mother - trying to fulfill her own passionate commitment to writing at a time when to be a woman writer was an extraordinary and costly anomaly.
“Even for those of us who thought we knew everything about the young author of Frankenstein, Fiona Sampson’s brilliant new biography has many surprises in store. The ground on which [Shelley] stands, the very apartments in which she lived, are freshly illuminated, newly imagined, helping us draw closer to this fascinating but elusive writer.This is not so different a project from Mary Shelley’s own: to breathe life into the dead, to bring new life to the archives of the past.”- Washington Post
“Mary’s life has unending fascination. [Sampson’s] goal is to ’bring Mary closer to us.’ She sees Mary’s turbulent life in the context of the Romantic Movement, and as part of an early wave of feminism that ended in the conservative Victorian era.”- New York Times Book Review
“British poet and academic Fiona Sampson’s new study In Search of Mary Shelley focuses almost exclusively on her subject’s youth. She wants to tell us about what she calls the ‘chewy’ bits―the sex scandals, the haunted nights in Swiss villas, the Sturm und Drang. And she does it in a way that is unapologetically selective, giving us her Mary in a series of "freeze frames" or tableaux: biography by lightning flashes. If you are after bravura scene-setting, however, and an ardent inhabiting of the book’s subject, Ms. Sampson can’t be bettered. Ms. Sampson throws herself wholeheartedly into satisfying our curiosity about the psychological triggers behind Frankenstein.”- Wall Street Journal
“Plumbing her formative years as well as the depths of her psyche for clues, Sampson chronicles the circumstances and events that preceded her subject’s extraordinarily imaginative leap into new literary horizons. [A] fascinating story of the inner workings and motivations of a genius well ahead of her time on the 200th anniversary of her masterpiece.”- Booklist (starred)
“Luminous. Sampson valuably addresses why Frankenstein possesses such enduring power. Highly recommended for general readers interested in women’s writing and literary history.”- Library Journal (starred)
“Mary’s life is recounted with insight and and empathy by Fiona Sampson’s In Search of Mary Shelley the most engaging of a clutch of books published to mark the novel’s bicentenary.”- The Economist
“A perceptive biography. Sampson demonstrates why the story of Shelley and Frankenstein remains so intriguing, even today. The author deftly plumbs the depths of Mary’s psyche to enlighten us about both Shelleys and reveal the profound effects they had on each other.”- Kirkus Reviews
“An incisive and emotionally resonant portrait of Mary Shelley. Succeeds in bringing an unconventional woman to vivid life.”- Publishers Weekly
“Sampson focuses on key episodes that provide essential clues to understanding the author. Each episode is like a tile in a mosaic, beautifully crafted and essential to Shelley’s complex portrait. Or, given Sampson’s status as one of England’s pre-eminent living poets, perhaps it is more apt to say that each chapter is like a stanza, resulting in a poetic exploration of one of the most influential novelists in English literature. Illuminates a woman whose genius enabled her not only to survive but also to triumph.”- BookPage