The Determined Heart by Antoinette May: A Review

determined heartBehind every great story there is a person who have birth to the words, characters and thoughts of that story. It is often that person becomes a great author themselves, but sometimes as readers we become so consumed by those great words that we often forget about the person that brought it to life. Who are those authors that had such imaginations and creativity to invent the stories we hold dear today? This is often the case when faced with “classic” literature. Books that have been around forever, that have made and developed different genres of fiction.  Frankenstein is among the classic fiction that helped define the gothic genre, and still defines it to this day. But this review isn’t about Frankenstein, which I do need to re-read at some point, but the fictional portrayal of the author herself, Mary Shelley. The Determined Heart by Antoinette May is a tale that looks at the woman who struck fear in the heart of Regency England.

Before Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, the daughter of a penniless political philosopher and a feminist, had a very unconventional upbringing. Being surrounded by the most talented personalities of the time, her mind soaked up even the most eccentric ideals and thoughts during her time. Sadly, Mary loses her mother at an early and often finds herself in conflict with the jealousy of her stepmother and stepsister. As Mary matures, her beauty, as well as her intellect, begin to blossom and soon catches the attention of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Falling deeply in love with one another, they decided to elope to the content without thinking much of the consequences to follow. Everything is not so sunny in paradise when Mary discovers that Percy has taken her stepsister has a lover, and the struggle between the three becomes a reality. Spanning over 10 years, Mary will be faced with jealousy, betrayal, temptation, loss, constant debt, and the birth of something that would seal her name in history; Frankenstein.

                Two things: One, I really need to re-read Frankenstein after reading this book, and two, this book was brilliant. Antoinette’s writing is flawless. It’s beauty in itself. I am sure Antoinette could write about her encounter at the grocery store and I would still read it. Her writing is a joy to read and she brings drama, and life to events that would break the heart. Her descriptions give the reader a perfect bird’s eye view of the events unfolding in Mary’s life. The reader faces the struggles that Mary faces and experiences the same emotions and adventures she does. With Antoinette’s brilliant verse, the reader has the ability to relate to Mary and how her life is; she is the epitome of a great writer.

The research on this book must have been extensive, and the amount of time was put into it is clearly seen in her work. It is evident that Antoinette did the work and put in the effort to make the story right, but oh my gosh it is stunning. I didn’t have the faintest idea that Mary Shelley’s life was so dramatic. Her life could have easily been a soap opera, and would have put The Wives of Whatever City to shame with all the things she did. Not only did she elope with a marriage man at the age of 18, but she also managed to write one of the best gothic novels in history! What baffled me was that when the book was first published, they had to publish it anonymously because the fact Mary was a woman. WHAT?! But then you had to remember that is was during the Regency period, where woman did not have much to themselves besides their reputation, and the prospect of getting married. That’s it. Women went to school to learn to become a wife, a governess, a maid, or even teacher to teach other girls womanly ways, they were not allowed to go to school to learn. This was also the time when great literature and poetry was being written and published. From Jane Austen to Lord Byron and John Keats, the writing world was becoming ever popular which I am sure gave way for Mary to write Frankenstein.

Antoinette’s portrayal of Mary’s life is a beautiful piece of literary wonder. Besides the fact there was a lot of drama which seemed a little overwhelming at times, the story was one that gives life to the woman behind the monster. It made me wonder about the other authors that have written such amazing works that I love and cherish and what motivated them to write their books. Antoinette’s words brought light to a women who I am sure many people haven’t thought about. I know the majority of the population has read Frankenstein at some point in their life. But if you haven’t then you need to get on that right now! It is beautifully haunting to see a man create life and then desperately try to push that life away. Read Frankenstein, and then you need to read A Determined Heart to better acquaint yourself with an author who brought life with her book, and shaped the gothic genre. Classic gothic is not something I often find myself picking up, but I may need to change my tune. I may need to start reading looks by Ann Radcliffe. Does anyone have any other classic gothic that I should pick up? Suggestions welcomed! Add this book to your winter reading list when it is too cold to go outside.

What are your thoughts on gothic literature? Let me a comment below on your thoughts and suggestions.

Happy Reading!

Disclaimer: I was sent The Determined Heart for free from Netgalley for an honest review. This review is of my own work, and I did not copy or refer to any other reviewers/writers/bloggers for this post. All content provided on “A Comfy Chair” is for informational purposes only. I make no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. I will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. I will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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