Hideous Love is the fascinating story of Gothic novelist Mary Shelley, who as a teen girl fled her restrictive home only to find herself in the shadow of a brilliant but moody boyfriend, famed poet Percy Shelley. It is the story of the mastermind behind one of the most iconic figures in all of literature: a monster constructed out of dead bodies and brought to life by the tragic Dr. Frankenstein.
Mary wrote Frankenstein at the age of nineteen, but inspiration for the monster came from her life-the atmospheric European settings she visited, the dramas swirling around her, and the stimulating philosophical discussions with the greatest minds of the period, like her close friend, Lord Byron.
This luminous verse novel from award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill reveals how Mary Shelley became one of the most celebrated authors in history.
“He is yet a stranger to me,
and then somehow I feel
as though I have known him
for many years now,
as though he may be the one
I imagined would come
and whisk me away…” Pg. 13
I think this book was marketed incorrectly. I bet most of the people that went into this book saw it on an Epic Reads ARC party and fell in love with it because of the cover and title (*raises hand*). I think most people who requested or bought this book were not familiar with the author’s previous works, and were looking for your typical YA read. Hideous Love is composed completely in free verse. When I scrolled through the star ratings of Hideous Love on Goodreads and saw so many one star reviews, I had to give in and read a few of them. Most of those one star reviews were from people who do not read outside the scope of traditional novel formating. If you are a fan of creative writing or read and appreciate other types of literature such as The Divine Comedy, than you will enjoy Hideous Love. I think this book is for those who have an appreciation for all types of literature, not just YA/NA novels.
I remember the first time I learned that Frankenstein was not written by a man, but by a woman who shared a last name with the Romantic English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was a movie preview for a Frankenstein film starring Helena Bonham Carter and the image for the movie poster read: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who still think Frankenstein was written by a man, so I was excited to see Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley being highlighted in Stephanie Hemphill’s work. Reading Hideous Love was an absorbing experience. I had a lot of visuals to supply my imagination with thanks to films I had seen before like Rowing With the Wind and the BBC televison movie on Lord Byron. I’ve read biographies on other poets of Shelley’s time and all of their lives overlap at one point or another. All of this background information made me connect with Mary’s character on a deeper level. I was experiencing everything vicariously through her, and Stephanie Hemphill did a lovely job of mixing fact with fiction in this book.
I used to love the words of Lord Byron. I read his poetry, and tore out pages of it to put on my bedroom walls in high-school. I pictured him as sensitive knight in shining armor.
I used to love Lord Byron.
Until I watched the BBC mini-series on him.
I now despise Lord Byron, and the sentiment behind his poetry seems false and tainted. Lord Byron was a prick. A philandering, arrogant, prick. I had never read anything about Byron’s personal life, so I was notably shocked when I watched his biography unfold on BBC. Hideous Love made me hate Percy Bysshe Shelley just as much as Lord Byron. Hideous Love is a book about the woman who loved Percy Shelley, but through her narration we see what kind of man Percy was. My disdain for Percy shadows everything else about this lovely book.
We travel with Mary from her childhood in Scotland to the first time she met Percy Shelley, to the moment she publishes Frankenstein. Through verse we learn about Mary’s relationship with her family and witness her troubled feelings about the cold connections between herself, and those she is supposed to be closest with. Perhaps this is why Mary runs away with Percy. It’s love at first sight for the two when they meet, and I can’t help feel that Shelley preyed on the longing that Mary had to be singular to someone. The need she had to stand out amongst siblings that she felt garnered more love and affection from her parents than she did. One of the elements I enjoyed most about this book was the traipsing through England and Italy with the Shelley’s. I felt swept up in the pair’s romantic wanderlust throughout Europe.
Like many male writers and poets of Percy Shelley’s time, he seems to go through muses like fish go through water. Mary does not stay the singular bright star in Percy’s life for long and we witness this through Mary’s journal-like entries. We understand that she tries to justify Percy’s behavior, or question her own feelings about his actions, but it’s obvious there is a very sad and broken woman underneath what she composes. Mary’s story is filled with idealism, rage, romance, heartbreak, and despair. I think the avant garde Frankenstein was the product of all these experiences and emotions pieced together from Mary’s journey’s with Percy. It’s these unique experiences in Mary’s story that brought Frankenstein to life.
Stephanie lyrically channels Mary in her writing, and I could not put Hideous Love down. I had to know what was going to happen next in her life. I recommend this book for any lover of historical biography or other creative types of writing. If you like to know what makes a person tick or the background story behind legendary things, than this book is for you. Sure, it’s not in the traditional iambic pentameter of Shakespeare, but it’s beautiful and poetic all the same.