Format Hardcover
Publication Date 06/05/18
ISBN 9781681777528
Trim Size / Pages 9.3 x 6.3 in / 368

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In Search of Mary Shelley

The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein

Fiona Sampson

Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein in 1818, a prize-winning poet delivers a major new biography of Mary Shelley—as she has never been seen before.

We know the facts of Mary Shelley’s life in some detail—the death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, within days of her birth; the upbringing in the house of her father, William Godwin, in a house full of radical thinkers, poets, philosophers, and writers; her elopement, at the age of seventeen, with Percy Shelley; the years of peripatetic travel across Europe that followed. But there has been no literary biography written this century, and previous books have ignored the real person—what she actually thought and felt and why she did what she did—despite the fact that Mary and her group of second-generation Romantics were extremely interested in the psychological aspect of life. In this probing narrative, Fiona Sampson pursues Mary Shelley through her turbulent life, much as Victor Frankenstein tracked his monster across the arctic wastes. Sampson has written a book that finally answers the question of how it was that a nineteen-year-old came to write a novel so dark, mysterious, anguished, and psychologically astute that it continues to resonate two centuries later. No previous biographer has ever truly considered this question, let alone answered it.

Fiona Sampson is a poet who has been shortlisted twice for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize. She has received the Cholmondeley Award, the Newdigate Prize, and the Writer’s Award from the Arts Councils of England and of Wales, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Trustee of the Wordsworth Trust. Please visit her at

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Endorsements & Reviews

“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
“A narrative of mystical experience; free of God and dogma, but deeply aware of history and ecology. Sampson be among the pioneers of a newly emergent twenty-first-century incarnation of sacred poetry.” The Guardian [Praise for Fiona Sampson]
“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)
“Sampson’s verse feels alive.” The Times Literary Supplement [Praise for Fiona Sampson]