Hideous Love by Stephanie Hemphill

Posted on January 11, 2014 by Regina | 9 Comments

Hideous Love by Stephanie HemphillHideous Love by Stephanie Hemphill
on October 1, 2013
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
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An all-consuming love affair.

A family torn apart by scandal.

A young author on the brink of greatness.

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
Mary Shelley quote
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.
1831 First edition of Frankenstein published under Mary Shelley's name.
1831 First edition of Frankenstein published under Mary Shelley’s name.
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.
Bride of Frankenstein. One of numerous things inspired by Mary Shelley's  novel.
Bride of Frankenstein. One of numerous things inspired by Mary Shelley’s novel.
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.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
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.
Wollstonecraft/Shelley grave.
Wollstonecraft/Shelley grave.
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.
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

9 responses to “Hideous Love by Stephanie Hemphill

  1. You know how I felt about this one…I was less opposed to the writing style and more aggravated at Mary Shelley’s personality throughout the book. A lot of the imagery disturbed me (such as-baby in a jar) and so this one just wasn’t my cup of tea.

    I’ve not read much verse so had no basis to compare nor judge the author’s abilities and skill–but I’d read another of her books if the topic interested me more. I found her depth of research to be incredible and respected her avenue of expression.

    I do LOVE Shakespeare (and have been known to venture into the wild world of adult literature once and awhile) so wouldn’t consider myself limited only to YA. I do think that this book being marketed to the YA audience was risky but awesome at the same time because it might just open the door for young readers to become acquainted with different writing style/techniques.

    I’m so happy that you ended up loving this one and that it found a better home with you than with me. 🙂

    • I only remember you telling me it was in verse and you thought it was a little boring. THIS REVIEW IS NOT AIMED AT YOU, lol. It was my reaction to reviews I recently read.

      • haha, didn’t think it was! I would have said it if I had 🙂 I was just remembering talking about it to you–pondering if the style was the reason I had trouble relating to MS.

        I am now tempted to go back to GR and read the reviews you are referencing. Any review that suggests a book ‘sucks’ because the style wasn’t expected is rather close-minded. I think it’s safe to say verse isn’t going to wildly appeal (esp in YA market) but I hope people could see beyond that fact into how the author constructed her book and the amount of research she did to give an accurate (I assume) account of MS life and times.

        I hadn’t really thought about the expectations the YA audience might or might not have going into Hideous Love so found (and was commenting about) that aspect of it. Very interesting stuff there. I would love to see a survey of this (my) reading group to see how much adult/literature they do read along with young adult and how that might change their response to books in an outside genre.

        I know with The Bone Season (and Gameboard of the Gods) which were adult books- some found the pacing painfully slow but I responded well. I wonder if Hideous Love had been marketed differently would its ratings be different? interesting stuff Regina! Sorry if my prior comment lacked the detail (that this one does) and seemed defensive. Luckily, I rarely if ever think a review is aimed at me.

    • Mimi Monica

      hey i totally agree and i love how in her books its mostly love. she is my favorite person in the book hideous love. what about you?

  2. Glad this post got you thinking about how we review! When I think back to when you gave me the Hideous Love ARC, I remember that one of the reasons you did indeed not like it was because it was in verse. Also, when I went back and read your review it seems like that was a part of you not enjoying the book. And who’s to say you can’t give a book a low rating because you do not like the format or style? You like what you like, and don’t like what you don’t like. I think I came off as judge-y in my review, and didn’t mean to be that way.
    I find that I rarely give a book a bad/low rating because of the style/format/or content. I’ve read a handful of books that I didn’t like the content (Demonic Dora), but gave a high rating because there were no holes in the plot, the characters are well developed, things flow nicely, and the writer has a strong voice. There are books that I have rated that I DID NOT enjoy aspects of the content, but tried not to rate it lower because of that. I usually don’t think it’s fair to give a low rating because I don’t like the traits an author chose to give a character, or what they chose to write about. I try to go by the author’s delivery of the story. Just because something isn’t my style, doesn’t mean it’s not a well written book deserving of 3+ stars.

    It’s funny because, even reading some of the lower Goodreads reviews for this book, I could tell the REAL reason a person didn’t like it was because it was presented as stanzas of free verse, but the reviewer doesn’t come out and say it. I just felt like this book got an undeserved bad rep, and hated seeing people comment that they were going to buy it, but changed their minds because of all the bad reviews. I thought Stephanie Hemphill’s writing was and presentation was solid, correctly paced, and written beautifully for the style.
    But of course, I (like you) have probably matured in my reviewing and considerations since I started blogging. I probably did at one time let my like or dislike of content effect my ratings.

    • Oh, and this is totally making me think of Victoria Scott’s Dante Walker series because I just reviewed The Liberator! I saw reviews of people that didn’t care for the books because they didn’t like Dante’s dialogue or character traits, and I thought that kind of sucked that they rated lower because of that. Victoria presented this ”bad” character in excellent style with a strong and unique voice, solid plot, great pacing, and fun and original ideas. Just another example of people mixing things into rating a book, that maybe shouldn’t effect it. But again, who am I to say that??? Just my thoughts or feelings on the matter. I’m sure I’ve come a long way in my reviewing and pondering of a piece of literature.

      • Oh, and this is totally making me think of Angelfall as well! I absolutely DETESTED and was disturbed by some of the imagery, but couldn’t deny the story telling and overall effect of Susan’s writing was excellent. Her characters were wonderful. I bet some people gave this book low ratings based on not liking what the author CHOSE to write about.

  3. I’d actually had a similar discussion with another blogger friend because we had both read two books near the same time (Tin Star and Red Rising) we both rated them very differently. That conversation had me wondering about how other bloggers rate–emotional connection, books content/execution or a mixture of both. I took a twitter survey and posted my thoughts and results in a blog post. It was very interesting to read how people responded and to really think about my own personal views. I love really looking at these things deeply. Then, you and I started discussing Hideous Love…which I’d forgotten about and it just goes to show how different each book hits its reader and how all of our opinions are valuable and can differ so greatly..which, to be honest, is why I love this community and why I enjoy reading other people’s reviews.

  4. Yes! I saw your survey posted the other day and FAVORITED it on twitter. I meant to RT it, but just checked and I didn’t. Sorry, just thought it was in connection to this discussion since you posted it the day after. I have not read your reviews for those books yet, but am interested now! I do stand by my opinion that sometimes people who aren’t fans of a certain literary style (or familiar with it) will rate a book based off of that pre-standing factor, even if the book is executed wonderfully within the standards of it’s genre. The writing was beautiful in Hideous Love. The context of the writing gave me extreme anxiety and anguish therefore I think the writer has done her job well. She has made me feel sympathy/empathy for Mary Shelley. But yes, it has been very interesting seeing how the blogging community reacts to books, and rates/reviews them differently. You know me; I tend to be a caveman about my books (or other things I’m passionate about). I feel the need to make people see things my way just short of threatening them with a club, lol. I do feel like I’m making progress though, and fully embracing the 21st century. I’m acting more and more like a civilized human being and blogging participant every day.

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