"Even for those of us who thought we knew everything about the young author of Frankenstein, Fiona Sampson’s brilliant new biography has many surprises in store. The ground on which [Shelley] stands, the very apartments in which she lived, are freshly illuminated, newly imagined, helping us draw closer to this fascinating but elusive writer.This is not so different a project from Mary Shelley’s own: to breathe life into the dead, to bring new life to the archives of the past."
– Washington Post
"British poet and academic Fiona Sampson’s new study In Search of Mary Shelley focuses almost exclusively on her subject's youth. She wants to tell us about what she calls the ‘chewy’ bits—the sex scandals, the haunted nights in Swiss villas, the Sturm und Drang. And she does it in a way that is unapologetically selective, giving us her Mary in a series of "freeze frames" or tableaux: biography by lightning flashes. If you are after bravura scene-setting, however, and an ardent inhabiting of the book's subject, Ms. Sampson can't be bettered. Ms. Sampson throws herself wholeheartedly into satisfying our curiosity about the psychological triggers behind Frankenstein."
– Wall Street Journal
"Mary's life has unending fascination. [Sampson's] goal is to 'bring Mary closer to us.' She sees Mary's turbulent life in the context of the Romantic Movement, and as part of an early wave of feminism that ended in the conservative Victorian era."
– New York Times Book Review
"Mary’s life is recounted with insight and and empathy by Fiona Sampson’s In Search of Mary Shelley the most engaging of a clutch of books published to mark the novel’s bicentenary."
– The Economist
"Luminous. Sampson valuably addresses why Frankenstein possesses such enduring power. Highly recommended for general readers interested in women’s writing and literary history."
– Library Journal (starred)
"Plumbing her formative years as well as the depths of her psyche for clues, Sampson chronicles the circumstances and events that preceded her subject’s extraordinarily imaginative leap into new literary horizons. [A] fascinating story of the inner workings and motivations of a genius well ahead of her time on the 200th anniversary of her masterpiece."
– Booklist (starred)
"A perceptive biography. Sampson demonstrates why the story of Shelley and Frankenstein remains so intriguing, even today. The author deftly plumbs the depths of Mary's psyche to enlighten us about both Shelleys and reveal the profound effects they had on each other."
– Kirkus Reviews
"An incisive and emotionally resonant portrait of Mary Shelley. Succeeds in bringing an unconventional woman to vivid life."
– Publishers Weekly
"Sampson focuses on key episodes that provide essential clues to understanding the author. Each episode is like a tile in a mosaic, beautifully crafted and essential to Shelley’s complex portrait. Or, given Sampson’s status as one of England’s pre-eminent living poets, perhaps it is more apt to say that each chapter is like a stanza, resulting in a poetic exploration of one of the most influential novelists in English literature. Illuminates a woman whose genius enabled her not only to survive but also to triumph."