Romantic Outlaws

Romantic Outlaws

The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

Book - 2015
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"Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and her daughter Mary Shelley (1797-1851) have each been the subject of numerous biographies by top tier writers, yet no author has ever examined their lives in tandem. Perhaps this is because these two amazing women never knew each other--Wollstonecraft died of infection at the age of 38, a week after giving birth to her daughter. Nevertheless their lives were closely intertwined, their choices, dreams and tragedies so eerily similar, it seems impossible to consider one without the other: both became famous writers; both fell in love with brilliant but impossible authors; both were single mothers and had children out of wedlock (a shocking and self-destructive act in their day); both broke out of the rigid conventions of their era and lived in exile; and both played important roles in the Romantic era during which they lived. The lives of both Marys were nothing less than extraordinary, providing fabulous material for Charlotte Gordon, a gifted story teller. She seamlessly weaves their lives together in back and forth narratives, taking readers on a vivid journey across Revolutionary France and Victorian England, from the Italian seaports to the highlands of Scotland, in a book that reads like a richly textured historical novel"--
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2015]
Edition: First U.S. edition
ISBN: 9781400068425
Branch Call Number: PR5841.W8 Z716 2015
B Wollstonecraft M Gordon
Characteristics: xviii, 649 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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As a fan of biographies, I was thrilled to discover this book that details both the lives of eighteenth century writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights Mary Wollstonecraft, and her daughter Mary Shelley, author of the classic novel Frankenstein. Romantic Outlaws reads like a gripping historical fiction as the remarkable storyteller and historian, Charlotte Gordon, examines both of the lives of these incredibly influential literary voices. Weaving the lives of these two women in alternating chapters, the reader is provided with a window into the social and political atmosphere of Western Europe during the late eighteenth century as Mary Wollstonecraft experiences both the glory and the terror of the French Revolution, while struggling to promote the equality of the sexes. Gordon simultaneously explores the life of Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary, focusing on the romantic relationship between Mary and the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Gordon presents the reader with the lives of these women who paved the way for the future of feminism, as the themes that are present in the work of both women are still highly relevant in today’s society where women still struggle for equal representation socially, politically, and economically. This was a riveting read! (Submitted by Sarah)

Nov 11, 2018

This is one of the best biographies I have read in a long time. Actually, it is a double biography, because the chapters alternate between Mary Shelley's life and her mother's, Mary Wollstonecraft. Beside being extremely well researched, this book illustrates the profound influence of Wollstonecraft on her daughter, her beliefs, her life and her work. I read it while preparing a lecture on Frankenstein and am very happy I did, because it's really hard to appreciate Mary Shelley without being aware of her mother's works and philosophy. The book is not all "intellectual," however. There are several sections devoted to everyday life that make it even more charming and real. For example, there are the notes that Wollstonecraft sent Godwin telling how what to give little Fanny to eat (not too much pudding!). It's a book for everyone interested not just in Mary Shelley but also in her family - her parents, her husband, her stepsister - and in the time when she lived and the hypocrite moral conventions that she defied.

Aug 14, 2017

The riveting tale of two extraordinary women who led remarkable lives, impacting literature and sociology in ways that resonate even more today than during their own respective time periods. Well-written in a style both honest and sympathetic, delving deep to challenge old myths and deliver current information. I found the device of alternating chapters between the two women a bit confusing at times, as both women are named Mary, but it was an interesting way to see the parallels between the lives of the two women who never really knew each other, and how similar traumas impacted their literary outputs. A lot to digest and ponder, with the French Revolution, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and others all playing their parts in shaping who these women became and the philosophies they developed about marriage, religion, the rights of women and the ethics of man. As someone who enjoys historical biographies and memoirs that walk along the darker edges of life, I found that this book delivered on both counts.

Jul 24, 2017

This book is an in-depth look at the lives of both mother and daughter. I found it enthralling and a little depressing as their legacies and accomplishments were almost lost and still are not widely known.

Megan_B_ Jul 18, 2017

This is a well-written biography that goes back and forth between mother and daughter showing their struggles and triumphs and makes them real people instead of just names in textbooks. They were women who felt emotion very strongly and did the things they wanted to do despite the people in their lives trying to make them live conventional lives. Wollstonecraft and Shelley were anything but conventional. From this biography, we learn that Wollstonecraft was actually at the forefront of the Romantic Movement, which her daughter and son-in-law would give voice to in their writing.

Apr 26, 2016

What an amazing journey both these women were on and what an awesome piece of work this biographer did.

This biography reads much like a novel, often leaving cliffhangers that made me want to keep going.

The trials and tribulations and reality that these women endured, and oh so much more, it often lead me stricken, with emotions blurred into one another.

This type of literature is very much outside my norm but I am better for reading it. Although these women were cast aside in their time, and for well over one hundred years (more in the case of Wollstonecraft), it is incredibly satisfying knowing their works are recognized, and studied today.

I highly recommend it, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Mar 26, 2016

Well written biographies of a mother and daughter who were feminists when feminism definitely wasn't cool. I found the book to be too overly detailed, however - it could have stood a hair cut of about a hundred or so pages (from five hundred plus) and still have gotten its point across.

Dec 01, 2015

An incredibly well-written biography of mother and daughter, which because of the skill of the writer is easily followed and intensely gripping, when it very well might have been confusing due to the amount of detail and similarities in name and circumstances. Great job!


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