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Blog Tour Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Blogtour RATIONAL CREATURES Ed. by Christina Boyd (@xtnaboyd) It was hard to be a woman in the Regency period and Austen knew it all too well! A must read for Austen lovers.

Hi all:

I am pleased to bring you a book by an editor (and writer) I have come to admire and trust. She has put me in touch with many great authors a well, so you read on at your peril… Ah, and don’t miss the GIVEAWAY

Rational Creatures. Edited by Christina Boyd
Rational Creatures. Edited by Christina Boyd

Rational Creatures: Stirrings of Feminism in the Hearts of Jane Austen’s Fine Ladies (The Quill Collective Book 3) by Christina Boyd (Editor ),  Joana Starnes, Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Brooke West, Caitlin Williams. Foreword by Devoney Looser

“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion

Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Rational-Creatures-Stirrings-Feminism-Collective-ebook/dp/B07JFJ1HSZ/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rational-Creatures-Stirrings-Feminism-Collective-ebook/dp/B07JFJ1HSZ/

My review:

I thank Christina Boyd for sending me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review and for offering me to the opportunity to join the blog tour for its launch.

I have read and reviewed one of the Austen based collections Christina Boyd has edited in the past (Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, check that review here), and when she told me what she was working on, I did not hesitate. I have met many talented writers through her collection and the books she has edited and have to warn any readers that you are likely to end up with a long list of authors added to your favourites if you keep on reading.

I am sure no Austen reader would think that, but some people not so well versed in her work sometimes think that her novels are only about silly girls of the Regency period, normally of good families, flirting and forever plotting to marry a rich and attractive man, with nothing of interest in their heads other than attending parties and fashionable balls, and not a hint of independent thought or opinion. Nothing further from the truth. The title of the collection highlights the status of Jane Austen’s female characters. There are nice women, some cruel ones, vain, prejudiced, stubborn, naïve, impulsive, but they are not the playthings of men. They work hard to prove they are “rational creatures” and they try, within the options open to them at the time, to take charge of their lives and their own destinies.

In the foreword, Devoney Looser writes:

In its pages, the best of today’s Austen-inspired authors use their significant creative powers to explore new angles of love and loss, captivity and emancipation. These stories reimagine both, beloved female characters, like Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, and loathed ones, such as Persuasion’s Penelope Clay. The results are comical, disturbing, and moving.

I could not have said it better. While when I reviewed Dangerous to Know I said anybody could enjoy the stories but connoisseurs of Austen would likely delight in them, in this case, I think this is a book for Austen fans, and those particularly interested in feminism and in the early supporters of the education of women. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is mentioned in the foreword and also makes its appearance in some of the stories, and it clearly informs the readings the authors make of the characters and the novels they pay homage to. As a matter of fact, the book could also have been called A Vindication of Austen’s Women.

While some of the contributions are short stories in their own right, although centred on one of Austen’s female characters, some are vignettes closely linked to one of her novels, showing the background to some events in the story, or exploring the reasons for the decisions taken by some of the female characters that might have surprised us when we have read the novels, particularly so, perhaps, due to our modern sensibilities. Each story is introduced by a quotation from the novel in question that helps us get into the right frame of mind.

The catalogue of stories and characters is long and inclusive. We have: “Self-Composed” (by Christina Morland) about Elinor Dashwood, “Every Past Affliction” (by Nicole Clarkston) about Marianne Dashwood, “Happiness in Marriage” (by Amy D’Orazio) about Elizabeth Bennet (one of the most famous and well-known heroines in the Austen canon and I think most readers will easily identify with the character and her plight), “Charlotte’s Comfort” (by Joana Starnes) about Charlotte Lucas (I will confess I’d always wondered about Charlotte’s decision to marry the horrendous Mr. Collins. I enjoyed this version of events and it makes perfect sense), “Knightley Discourses” (by Anngela Schroeder) about Emma Woodhouse (it was a pleasure to catch up with Emma again, a happily married Emma, here), “The Simple Things” (by J. Marie Croft) about Hetty Bates (perhaps because I’ve never been married, I am always drawn towards characters who remain single, and I found this episode particularly touching), “In Good Hands” (by Caitlin Williams) about Harriet Smith (it was good to see Harriet get her own voice and not only be Emma’s plaything), “The Meaning of Wife” (by Brooke West) about Fanny Price (I liked this rendering of Fanny Price as she gets enlightened thanks to Wollstonecraft’s Vindication), “What Strange Creatures” (by Jenetta James) about Mary Crawford (which introduces a touch of mystery), “An Unnatural Beginning” (by Elizabeth Adams) about Anne Elliot (another one I found particularly touching), “Where the Sky Touches the Sea” (by Karalynne Mackrory) about Sophia Croft (this is not a character I was very familiar with but I loved her relationship with her husband, her self-sufficiency, and the realistic depiction of grief), “The Art of Pleasing” (by Lona Manning) about Penelope Clay (as a lover of books about cons and conmen, I could not help but enjoy this fun story full of twists and fantastically deceitful characters), “Louisa by the Sea” (by Beau North) about Louisa Musgrove, “The Strength of Their Attachment” (by Sophia Rose) about Catherine Morland, “A Nominal Mistress” (by Karen M. Cox) about Eleanor Tilney (a fun story with its sad moments, and a good example of the type of situations women could find themselves in at the time), and “The Edification of Lady Susan” (by Jessie Lewis) about Lady Susan Vernon (an epistolary story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and another one recommended to people who love deceit and con games).

The writing styles vary between the stories, but there are no actualisations or reinventions. The stories are all set within the Regency period, and the authors observe the mores and customs of the period, seamlessly weaving their vignettes and stories that would be perfectly at eas within the pages of the Austen novels they are inspired by. The characters might push the boundaries of gender and social classes but never by behaving in anachronistic ways, and if anything, reading this book will make us more aware of what life was like for women of different ages and different social situations in that historical period. What we get are close insights into the thoughts and feelings of these women, many of whom were only talked about but never given their own voices in the original novels. It is amazing how well the selection works, as sometimes we can read about the same characters from different perspectives (the protagonist in one of the stories might be a secondary character in another one, and the heroine in one of the stories might be a villain in the next), but they all fit together and help create a multifaceted portrait of these women and of what it meant to be a woman of a certain class in the Regency period.

I have said before that I feel this collection will suit better readers who are familiar with Austen’s universe, but, to be fair, I have enjoyed both, the stories centred on novels I knew quite well, and those based on characters I was not very familiar with, so I would not discourage people who enjoy Regency period novels and have read some Austen, but are not experts, from reading this book. By the time I finished the book, I admired, even more, the genius of Austen and had decided to become better acquainted with all of her novels. Oh, and of course, determined also to keep sharing the collections and books by this talented group of writers.

In summary, I recommend this book to anybody who loves Austen and has always felt curious about her female characters, protagonists and supporting players alike, and wished to have a private conversation with them, or at least be privy to the thoughts they kept under wraps. If you want to know who these women are and to see what it must have been like to try to be a woman and a rational creature with your own ideas in such historical era, I recommend this collection. As a bonus, you’ll discover a selection of great authors, and you’ll feel compelled to go back and read all of Austen’s novels. You’ve got nothing to lose other than a bit (or a lot) of sleep!

(In case you are curious, you can check my reviews for a couple of Karen M. Cox’s novels I Could Write a Book (here) and Son of a Preacher Man (here), and Jenetta James’s The Elizabeth Paper (here) and Lovers’ Knot (here). And I have a few more on my list to read!

Rational Creatures Super Giveaway

Super Giveaway

Giveaway Time!

The giveaway to accompany the blog tour is fantastic! Comment on the blog posts to enter, and at the end of the tour, a name will be randomly picked from all the comments on all the blog tour posts. This person will win all 21 prizes!

Thanks to Christina for keeping me on the loop and to all the great authors taking part, thanks to all of you for reading and please, remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep reading and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview #Booklaunch THE FACE OF A MONSTER: AMERICA’S FRANKENSTEIN by Patricia Earnest Suter. A book that will enthrall fans of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and people interested in XIX century true crime.

Hi all:

I normally don’t share posts on Sundays but as this book launches today and I had run out of space on my usual days, I thought you might have a bit of time to catch up on some reading on a Sunday. Sorry if you don’t…

The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein by Patricia Earnest Suter
The Face of a Monster: America’s Frankenstein by Patricia Earnest Suter

The Face of a Monster: America’s Frankenstein by Patricia Earnest Suter

The year 2018 will herald the 200th anniversary of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. The timing seems right for the story of a real monster. German-born immigrant Anton Probst arrived in New York in 1863. Within two hours of his arrival, he enlisted in the Union Army. During the American Civil War, Probst bore witness to mankind’s brutality. Afterwards, he became an inmate at the disreputable Blockley Almshouse in Philadelphia.

Frankenstein was first conceived by Shelley in 1816. Her monster was an embodiment of abandonment and loneliness, feelings Shelley shared. In despair, the creature resorted to violence. Fifty years after Frankenstein’s conception, Anton Probst adopted characteristics of Shelley’s monstrous creation. He became Philadelphia’s first mass-murderer when he slaughtered members of the Christopher Dearing family.

After his death, Probst’s story continued. The creature that he had become left a deep impression on the people of Philadelphia and New York. Researchers used Anton Probst’s body to show the effects of galvanization, the same means by which Frankenstein’s monster stirred to life. Incredibly, similarities surface between Shelley and her circle, her monster, and events that transpired when the blood of innocents was shed an ocean away. One defining difference is present. Unlike Shelley’s creature, the story of America’s monster is very real.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Face-Monster-Americas-Frankenstein/dp/069296519X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Face-Monster-Americas-Frankenstein/dp/069296519X/

 

 

Here is the Press Release with a bit more information.

The Face of a Monster: America’s Frankenstein 

Patricia Earnest Suter

Publishing 11th March 2018

Hardback: $14.99 E-book: $9.99 

2018 will mark the 200th anniversary of

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Now is the time for the story of a real monster… 

An original and imaginative blend of fiction and reality, The Face of a Monster tells the true story of Philadelphia’s first mass-murderer –Anton Probst—and the events which occurred fifty years after Frankenstein’s conception. This absorbing and well-documented account weaves Shelley’s famous novel with a similar tale of a very real monster. 

As Patricia Earnest Suter researched atrocities committed in Philadelphia by a European-born immigrant named Anton Probst, it became clear he embodied all that is monstrous. The story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster, a childhood favorite of Suter’s, easily came to mind.

Frankenstein, the classic gothic horror novel which has thrilled and engrossed readers for two centuries was first conceived by Shelley in 1816. Her monster personified abandonment and loneliness, feelings Shelley shared. In despair, the creature resorts to violence and the novel darkens into tragedy. Shelley’s masterpiece still maintains a strong grip on the imagination and has been the inspiration for numerous horror movies, television and stage adaptations. 

Fifty years later, Anton Probst adopted characteristics of Shelley’s monstrous creation. German-born immigrant Anton Probst arrived in New York in 1863. Within two hours of his arrival he enlisted in the Union Army. During the American Civil War, Probst bore witness to mankind’s brutality. He later became Philadelphia’s first mass-murderer when he slaughtered members of the Dearing family.

After his death, Probst’s story continued. The creature that he had become left a deep impression on the people of Philadelphia and New York. Researchers used Anton Probst’s body to show the effects of galvanization[1], the same means by which Frankenstein’s monster stirred to life. Incredibly, Probst’s circumstances parallel not only Frankenstein’s monster, but those of Mary Shelley. Relying on primary sources wherever possible, The Face of a Monster is brought to life through the words of Shelley and her inner circle, as well as contemporary accounts of Probst from Philadelphia’s journalists and attorneys.

This is a story of life imitating art. Over the course of researching and writing The Face of a Monster: America’s Frankenstein Suter discovered that monsters exist and that her childhood belief was right: they almost always adopt human form.

 

Author Patricia Earnest Suter

About the author: 

Pat Earnest Suter lives in Delaware with her family. She operates Earnest Archives and Library, a clearinghouse of Pennsylvania German documents. She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and is the author of The Hanging of Susanna Cox: The True Story of Pennsylvania’s Most Notorious Infanticide and the Legend that has Kept It Alive, The Forgotten Nephew: D. E. Lick and Old Stumpstown and Peter Montelius: Printer and Teacher, Teacher and Printer.

For more information visit: www.earnestarchivesandlibrary.com; www.passedtime.com

[1] Originally in the 19th century, the term “galvanizing” was used to describe the administration of electric shocks

My review:

I was provided an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Most of us have wondered more than once about the nature of fiction and the, sometimes, thin line separating reality from fiction. Although we assume that, on most occasions, fiction imitates reality, sometimes fiction can inspire reality (for better or for worse) and sometimes reality seems to imitate fiction (even if it is just a matter of perception). And although Slavoj Žižek and postmodernism might come to mind, none of those matters are new.

Suter’s non-fiction book combines three topics that are worthy of entire books (and some have been written about at length): Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mary’s own life, and Anton Probst’s life and the murders he committed. Each chapter of the book alternates between the chronological (up to a point) stories of Shelley and Probst, and comparisons of the developments and events in the “life” (fictional, but nonetheless important) of Frankenstein’s creature. The author uses quotes and close- text-analysis of Frankenstein, and also interprets the text based on the biography of Shelley, to explain how the creature ended up becoming a monster. Although the novel is an early example of science-fiction/horror, many of the subjects it touched belong in literature at large. Nature versus nurture (is the creature bad because of the parts used to make him, or because nobody shows him care and affection?), science versus morality and religion (can knowledge be its own justification, or should there be something of a higher order limiting experiments), prejudice, mob mentality, revenge, loneliness and isolation…

Shelley’s life, marked by tragedy from the very beginning (her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died when Mary was only eleven days old) was dominated by men who never returned her affection and who were happy to blame her for any disasters that happened. She was part of a fascinating group, but, being a woman, she was never acknowledged and did not truly belong in the same circle, and it seems an example of poetic justice that her book has survived, and even overtaken in fame, the works of those men that seemed so important at the time (Lord Byron, Percy B. Shelley…).

I was familiar with Frankenstein and with the life of Mary Shelley and her mother (although I am not an expert) but had not heard about Probst. The author has done extensive research on the subject and provides detailed information about the life of the murderer, and, perhaps more interesting still, his trial and what happened after. That part of the book is invaluable to anybody interested in the development of crime detection in late XIX century America (his crimes took place in Philadelphia, although he was born in Germany), the nature of trials at the time, the history of the prison service, executions, the role of the press and the nature of true crime publications, and also in the state of medical science in that era and the popular experiments and demonstrations that abounded (anatomical dissections, phrenology, galvanism were all the rage, and using the bodies of those who had been punished with the death penalty for experiments was quite common). Human curiosity has always been spurred by the macabre, and then, as much as now, the spectacle of a being that seemed to have gone beyond the bounds of normal behaviour enthralled the public. People stole mementos from the scene of the crime, queued to see the bodies of the victims, and later to see parts of the murderer that were being exhibited. Some things seem to change little.

Each part of the book is well researched and well written (some of the events are mentioned more than once to elaborate a point but justifiably so) and its overall argument is a compelling one, although perhaps not one that will attract all readers. There are indeed parallels and curious similarities in the cases, although for some this might be due to the skill of the writer and might not be evident to somebody looking at Probst’s case in isolation. Even then, this does not diminish from the expertise of the author or from the engrossing topics she has chosen. This is a book that makes its readers think about fame, literature, creativity, family, imaginary and true monsters, crime, victims, and the way we talk and write about crime and criminals. Then and now.

I’d recommend this book to readers interested in Frankenstein and Mary Shelley’s work and life, also to people interested in true crime, in particular, XIX century crime in the US. As a writer, I thought this book would be of great interest to writers researching crime enforcement and serial killers in XIX century America, emigration, and also the social history of the time. And if we feel complacent when we read about the behaviour of the experts and the common people when confronted with Probst and his murders, remember to look around you and you’ll see things haven’t changed that much.

The author also provides extensive notes at the end of the book, where she cites all her sources.

In case you want to check, I dedicated a post to Mary Shelley and her mother, here.

Thanks to the publisher, to the author, and to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

Categories
Reseñas de libros

#Reseña de libro ESPÍRITU DE ÁNGELES PERDIDOS de Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat). Traducción Sandra Cifuentes ( @scdtranslations) Una novela para amantes de la historia de la mujer, de las aventuras y de la Revolución Francesa #novelahistórica

Hola a todos:

Como sabéis, escribo muchas reseñas, aunque por motivos varios parece que leo mucho más en inglés que en español (soy miembro de varios grupos de reseñadores y contribuyo a otros blogs, todos en inglés, y en NetGalley no me consigo resistirme a las novedades que ofrecen, aunque espero que incluyan pronto libros en español) aunque tengo varios acumulados que están al caer.

A veces suena la flauta por casualidad, y una autora de la que me he leído dos novelas recientemente, Liza Perrat, australiana, me comentó que una de las novelas que me había leído tenía una versión en español, así que no me pude resistir a compartirla con vosotros. También he traducido la reseña, aunque debe constar que no me he leído la traducción al español, así que no os lo toméis todo al pie de la letra, pero, por si tenéis dudas, os sugiero que le echéis un vistazo a la muestra en Amazon. Yo creo que os encantará. Bueno, ahí va.

Espíritu de ángeles perdidos de Liza Perrat
Espíritu de ángeles perdidos de Liza Perrat

Espíritu de ángeles perdidos de Liza Perrat (Autora), Sandra Cifuentes Dowling (Traductora)

Después de que su madre fuera ejecutada por brujería y su padre muriera a causa de la indolencia de un noble, Victoire Charpentier se prometió a sí misma que superaría sus humildes orígenes campesinos.

Obligada a dejar Lucie-sur-Vionne, el pueblo de su infancia, para realizar labores domésticas en París, Victoire deberá sufrir espantosos abusos bajo el antiguo régimen monárquico del siglo dieciocho.

Encerrada en La Salpêtrière, el manicomio más cruel de la Francia de aquel entonces, una desesperada Victoire iniciará una relación con Jeanne de Valois, conocida embaucadora que había sido confinada en el mismo lugar por el caso de un collar de diamantes. Con la ayuda de la no solo despiadada sino también carismática condesa De Valois, Victoire se forjará un nuevo destino.

Inmersa en el frenesí de la Francia prerevolucionaria deberá encontrar el ímpetu necesario para unirse al pueblo sublevado que tomará La Bastilla. ¿Podrá armarse de valor para colaborar en el derrocamiento de la corrupta y diabólica aristocracia?

En los tumultuosos días de la Revolución francesa, las mujeres de Espíritu de Ángeles Perdidos deberán enfrentarse a la tragedia y a la traición en un mundo donde su virtud podrá ser también su maldición.

https://www.amazon.com/Esp%C3%ADritu-%C3%A1ngeles-perdidos-Spanish-Perrat-ebook/dp/B01GR72840/

https://www.amazon.es/Esp%C3%ADritu-%C3%A1ngeles-perdidos-Spanish-Perrat-ebook/dp/B01GR72840/

Author Liza Perrat
Autora Liza Perrat

Sobre la autora

Liza creció en Wollongong, Australia, donde trabajó como enfermera general y matrona durante quince años.

Tras conocer a su esposo francés en un bus en la ciudad de Bangkok, se mudó a Francia donde vive junto a él y a sus tres hijos hace más de veinte años. Allí trabaja a tiempo parcial como traductora en temas médicos del francés al inglés.

Luego de realizar un curso de escritura creativa, varios de sus cuentos cortos han ganado premios, principalmente el concurso anual Writers Bureau en 2004. Sus historias se han publicado profusamente en antologías y revistas periodísticas y sus artículos en francés acerca de la cultura y las tradiciones francesas en revistas internacionales tales como France Magazine y France Today.

Espíritu de Ángeles Perdidos corresponde a la primera de una saga de novelas históricas que cuentan con la Francia rural como telón de fondo.

Mi reseña:

Recientemente he leído y reseñado una novela de Liza Perrat, en inglés, la fabulosa The Silent Kookaburra (La Kookaburra silenciosa) y cuando se presentó la oportunidad, no me pude resistir a leer otra novela de esta autora. Al preparar la otra reseña descubrí que la autora es más conocida por sus novelas históricas y eso se notaba también en The Silent Kookaburra, que aunque está ambientada en una época mucho más cercana (los años setenta en Australia), cuenta con unos escenarios muy detallados, una atmósfera y unos eventos históricos de fondo que hacen que merezca esa clasificación, junto con una historia inquietante y bellamente escrita.

Espíritu de ángeles perdidos encaja perfectamente dentro de la categoría de novela de ficción histórica. Ambientada en Francia, unos cuantos años antes de la Revolución Francesa, sigue la vida de Victoire Charpentier, una chica nacida en una granja en un pueblo pequeño, cuya madre era una mujer sabia, comadrona y curandera, y que se tuvo que enfrentar a la muerte y a tragedias personales desde muy joven. Es víctima directa de la injusticia de la sociedad de la época (el carruaje de un aristócrata atropella a su padre y ni siquiera se detiene) y no es de extrañar que quiera vengarse. Las tragedias y los desastres se amontonan en su vida y los breves momentos de felicidad  se ven interrumpidos cuando de nuevo pasa alguna otra cosa mala. Su historia podría considerarse un melodrama, ya que Victoire siempre se encuentra en el centro de todo lo que pasa, y sobrevive contra toda predicción. Sus experiencias demuestran que la vida de una mujer es dura (y aún lo era más en aquella época). Perder a tu marido, a tus hijos, que te violen, te acusen de ser una bruja, y que no te dieran ni voz ni voto era lo habitual. Lo que ayuda a Victoire más que nada es el saber leer. Su talento para leer y escribir la ayuda a mantenerse en contacto con sus seres queridos, más tarde le proporciona una carrera literaria y el medio para concienciar a los demás de los sufrimientos de las mujeres y los pobres, y la ayuda a conocer a gente importante y a mantener esas conexiones. Y también la ayuda a cumplir su sueño y a conseguir un final feliz. Para mí, entre los puntos fuertes de la novela destacan la atención que le presta a la historia de las mujeres y sus condiciones sociales (sin centrarse tan solo en las mujeres de la aristocracia) y a la vital importancia de la educación.

El libro está bellamente escrito, narrado en primera persona por la protagonista, que se expresa con soltura. Como descubrimos más tarde, Victoire aprende a escribir muy bien, aunque al principio hubo momentos en que la belleza de la escritura me resultaron algo chocantes (cuando le escribe una carta a su hija Ruby en un momento dela historia en que aún está intentando mejorar su escritura, la carta no solo expresa sus sentimientos más profundos sino que, a pesar de la terrible situación por la que está pasando, resulta incluso lírica), aunque eventos que ocurren más adelante y el final hacen posible una interpretación distinta de la novela. El bello lenguaje y las detalladas y a veces poéticas descripciones ayudan a que los lectores se sientan transportados a la Francia de la época y que compartan los olores (y hedores), el tacto, las impresiones de los diversos lugares (incluyendo las experiencias aterradoras de La Salpêtrière). Las figuras históricas y los sucesos de la época (Victorie conoce a Thomas Jefferson, intercambia correspondencia con Mary Wollstonecraft y se hace amiga de Jeanne de Valois, que llega  jugar un papel muy importante en su vida) junto con la textura y entorno del libro hacen que la Francia de finales de siglo XVIII resulte aún más vívida. La autora explica en una nota al final del libro que su protagonista es totalmente ficticia y todas sus interacciones con las figuras históricas son inventadas, aunque inspiradas por los personajes reales.

Disfruté en particular de las reflexiones del personaje sobre el papel de la mujer en la sociedad de la época, de su terrorífica pero instructiva estancia en La  Salpêtrière, y de sus muchos recursos y perseverancia. Esta es una novela repleta de acción, donde los eventos se suceden rápidamente y a la protagonista le pasan muchas más cosas de las que le tocarían vivir a nadie en el mundo real, hasta tal punto que hace falta suspender un poco la incredulidad. Quizás porque seguimos al personaje durante mucho tiempo, y Victoire es un vehículo que refleja los eventos históricos y las experiencias de las mujeres en esa era en particular, no me pareció que su personaje fuera tan consistente o psicológicamente detallado como el de Tanya en The Silent Kookaburra (donde aunque vemos a la protagonista en dos edades diferentes, la mayor parte de la historia está contada desde el punto de vista de la niña Tanya, de solo 11 años). Dicho eso, esta es una historia maravillosa, llena de aventuras y cambios de suerte, que os transportará a un lugar y una época de suma importancia, y aunque es la primera novela de la escritora, ya muestra su dominio del lenguaje y su habilidad para crear historias que enganchan.

Gracias a la autora por compartir su novela, gracias a todos vosotros por leer, y ya sabéis, dadle al me gusta, comentad, compartid y haced CLIC!

Categories
Guest authors. Classics

#Guestclassicauthors Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Mother and daughter who helped change everything.

Hi all:

Happy Friday. As you know I’ve been revisiting some of my posts about classic authors (I promise I’ll try to find time to do some new ones soon, but I was surprised when I realised it had been three years already since I posted this one,  and I’m keen on making sure they are in my new blog too) and people seem to enjoy discovering (or in some cases rediscovering) them. As I’ve been talking a lot about mothers recently, with anthologies and events, it seemed of justice that I should share again the post about Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley. Two fascinating women who did much to change the way women were seen. And both lives, unfortunately, marked by personal tragedy. Here they are.
As you well know I like to bring you classic authors on Fridays. This time I thought I’d bring you a mother and daughter. Although unfortunately Mary Wollstonecraft died when her daughter (also Mary) was only a few days old (I’ve read 10 or 11) the two make a very interesting combination. Both are interesting women, both broke conventions (in the case of the mother, in particular, that haunted her reputation for years, even centuries, to come) and both are examples of the will to be yourself and to discover your own gifts and create yourself.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft.

There are many detailed biographies and I won’t attempt to give you all the details of her fascinating (although short, she died of puerperal fever at 38) life. I’ve left you some links but feel free to investigate by yourself.

She was born in London, in April 27th 1759. Her father has been described as violent (there are mentions of Mary sleeping across the door of her mother’s bedroom to prevent her father from beating her up) and very poor at managing his financial affairs and that resulted in the family having to move often. Her mother died in 1780 and she decided to earn a livelihood, not easy for a woman of a certain class and education at the time (as we’ve noted before, working class women have always worked. Women in rural areas have always worked in the fields apart from keeping a home and family). With her sister Eliza (who had left her husband and child encouraged by Mary) and fried Fanny, they established s school in Newington Green (1784). Based on her experiences there she wrote a pamphlet called Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787).

When her close friend Fanny died (in 1785), Wollstonecraft went to work as a governess in Ireland. Although the children of the family really loved her she did not enjoy the job and never got on well with lady Kingsborough, taking her as a model of the worst of aristocratic women, only interested in their appearances, vanity and status. She went back to London three years later and started working with Joseph Johnson, helping him set the Analytical Review, and becoming a regular contributor. She wrote one of her best-known works A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. She denounced the position of women in society advocating for them to have access to the same educational opportunities as men (she also advocated for women’s vote).

In the same year whilst visiting a friend in France (it was the time of the French Revolution and many English intellectuals visited) she met Captain Gilbert Imlay, an American timber merchant. They started living together although they never got married and she had a daughter to him, Fanny. The relationship was fraught with problems and she visited Scandinavia in an attempt at keeping the relationship going, although he left her. She wrote: Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark that became her most popular book of the time. She tried to commit suicide twice (once by drowning jumping into the Thames, the other one possibly by Laudanum poisoning).

Back in London she met again William Godwin, founder of philosophical anarchism. Although both were against marriage, they did get married when she got pregnant. She had a baby girl, Mary, but had a difficult labour (18 hours) and the manual removal of the placenta resulted in infection and she died a few days later (10th of September 1797).

Godwin published her unfinished work Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, where she gave voice to a prostitute and also acknowledged female sexual desire, a scandal at the time. He also wrote a biography giving a detailed account of her life, including her suicide attempts and having had a child whilst unmarried and that gave prominence to the scandal rather than to a serious view of her work. In more recent times her work has been greatly vindicated by the interest of feminist historians and also philosophers and educationalists.

 

Links to Mary Wollstonecraft:

In Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Wollstonecraft

BBC History:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/wollstonecraft_01.shtml

Spartacus Educational:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Wwollstonecraft.htm

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wollstonecraft/

OregonState page and link to read A Vindication of the Rights of Women on line.

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/wollstonecraft.html

Another link to A Vindication of the Rights of Women

http://www.bartleby.com/people/Wollston.html

Free Links to her books and writings (See also above for internet links):

Vindication of the Rights of Women:

http://www.amazon.com/Vindication-Rights-Woman-ebook/dp/B004TP7JMO/

Letters on Sweden, Norway and Denmark:

http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Sweden-Norway-Denmark-ebook/dp/B004TP232U/

Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman

http://www.amazon.com/Maria-Wrongs-Woman-ebook/dp/B0083Z4KAK/

mary-wollstonecraft-shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Born in London on 30th August 1797 (we know all about that). Her father William Godwin looked after her and Fanny (Mary’s first child by Imlay). Although it wasn’t a very formal education, her father had plenty of connections and she had access to interesting ideas and met some of the most brilliant thinkers and writers of the time when she was still very young (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth), including her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. She liked to read and daydream and also started writing at an early age.

Her father re-married Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801 but Mary never got on well with her step-mother. She had two children from a previous marriage and had a son with Godwin. Mary got on well with one of her stepsisters, Jane.

In the summer of 1812 she went to Scotland to stay with friends of her father, William Baxter and his family.

In 1814 (still very young) she started a relationship with Percy B. Shelley who had been a student of her father and was still married at that time. They ran away together accompanied by her stepsister (Jane Clairmont) and that alienated her from her father. They got married on 1816 when Shelley’s wife died (committed suicide).

They travelled through Europe and Mary lost two children. In 1816 during a summer when they were in Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori, on a rainy day and after reading ghost stories, famously Lord Byron suggested that each one of them should try and write their own horror story. Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. (I understand that Polidori wrote a vampire story…) The finished version was published in 1818. This was published anonymously. The book was a big success and as Percy Shelley had written the introduction many thought it was his.

Her relationship with Shelley was difficult, they lost two other children but she had a son, Percy Florence (1819) who lived to be an adult. Her husband drowned whilst sailing in 1822.

She had to support herself and did it by writing (that wasn’t very easy for a woman at the time). She wrote several novels, including a science-fiction book (The Last Man, a dystopian novel). She also dedicated herself to promote her husband’s work.

She died of a brain cancer on 1st February 1851. She is buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth alongside her father, mother and the ashes of her husband’s heart.

William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin,...
William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, St Peter’s Churchyard, Bournemouth (Photo credit: Alwyn Ladell)

Frankenstein is and will remain her most famous work; it has an enduring hold on people’s imagination, and it has seen many adaptations, to theatre, TV, film…

Links to Mary Shelley:

Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Shelley

New World Encyclopaedia:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mary_Shelley

Links to movies based on her writings:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0791217/

Biography.com page:

http://www.biography.com/people/mary-shelley-9481497

 

Free Links to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s books:

Frankenstein:

http://www.amazon.com/Frankenstein-ebook/dp/B0084BN44Q/

Proserpine and Midas:

http://www.amazon.com/Proserpine-and-Midas-ebook/dp/B000JQUO92/

Mathilda:

http://www.amazon.com/Mathilda-ebook/dp/B00849RPGQ/

The Last Man:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Man-ebook/dp/B00847OOMG/

Thanks for reading. And don’t forget if you’ve enjoyed it to comment, share and CLICK!

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