My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this one.
This graphic novel tells the story of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Opening in Oxford in 1811, when he gets expelled for his essay on Atheism (he was always in trouble there, pretty much), to his meeting with his first wife Harriet, and then his meeting and elopement with Mary Shelley, which is where this volume stops. The book does stay true to his story, more or less but tells it in a humorous way. The art too, is on the lines of caricature.
This was a cute way of getting to know about Shelley. I knew a little about him but not very much—that he was married to Harriet and then eloped with Mary, that he contributed to Frankenstein, that he died at a young age—but not much more. Also I’ve only read a few of his poems, but have a couple of his essays–on atheism, and in defence of poetry—on my TBR. The book touches upon these other writings I feel more than his poetry. We see him writing Queen Mab, of course, also a couple of other poems, but this volume mentions his essay “The Necessity of Atheism”, his adoption of vegetarianism, even the Declaration of Rights that he wrote. This also mentions Shelley sending out his declaration of rights in corked bottles in the sea (which is another thing I’d read about somewhere or other). Even though as a graphic novel, this doesn’t go into details of his works (there are quotes from his poetry, and letters etc on some of the pages aside from the main story), we can see him as someone who challenged popular views, and who certainly didn’t live his life conforming to the social norms of the day. But living his life on his own terms meant on the negative side that he didn’t seem to really think of who he would be hurting by his actions (like Harriet when his affection for her waned). His father and sisters, even his father-in-law disapprove as a consequence, and only his somewhat eccentric uncle (who came across as pretty likeable) seems to support him, even intercede with his father on his behalf when he runs out of money.
While the book gives one a bare glimpse into what must have been a rich, and certainly a very unusual life, it does so in a really enjoyable way. I hope there’s a second volume which picks up from where this left off. Though the numbering on NetGalley seems to suggest that the second might probably be from a different viewpoint, may be Mary Shelley? (Just checked the original French versions on goodreads, and it turns out this is right).
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