19 August 2011

Book Review: Mathilda by Mary Shelley

Good god I hated this book. It is a good thing that the front flap told me that father-daughter incest was involved because I never would have figured that out. When I got to the part where it was revealed I had to read it three times because the reference was so opaque that I never would have realized it was incestuous love. I am not unused to books from this period being full of protestations of love that seem over the top by today's standards but certainly don't indicate incest. And then once the incestuous fascination of father with daughter is revealed about half way through, the rest of it was just lots of hand wringing and anguish.

Incest is one of those taboos that really makes my flesh crawl. (Are you listening Penelope Lively?) I just don't want to read about it. But I could have gotten over it if something had happened in this book that would have made it less tediously overwrought.

Jessica from Virtual Margin explains the overwrought part perfectly.

Nicole at Bibliographing is more appreciative of the swooning Romanticism.

The Verdict: Hated it for so many reasons. Go read Frankenstein instead, fewer monsters in that one.


  1. I love your review...I happened to really enjoy the writing in this one, which is funny because I'm usually pretty impatient with dramatics, but I enjoyed reading your perspective.

  2. I believe that Mary Shelley was molested by her father. Have you read anything about her life? I think that when people write about issues that are taboo that in some cases their being drawn to it is because of personal experience.

  3. Yuck! Thank you for the warning. I will happily skip this one. I recently read DuMaurier's The Loving Spirit and that seemed to flirt with incest just enough to make it creepy. While not actually incestuous, it was a very bizarre mother-son relationship.
    Kay's comment was insightful - I haven't read about Shelley's life (or DuMaurier's yet, for that matter).
    Loving all these novella reviews!

  4. I'm about to embark on this one. Thanks for the warning! I'm reading all the female authors in the Art of the Novella Reading Challenge.

  5. Hmmm...Think I'll skip this one and reread Frankenstein, which I love.


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