I fell into a dream when I began Jeanette Winterson’s 11th novel, Frankissstein: A Love Story. This was in large part due to its lush and evocative descriptions of young Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s life in 1816 when she was domiciled outside of Geneva with her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his best friend, Lord Byron. Both poets egged her on, some might say, into giving birth to science fiction by writing the totemic, tragic Frankenstein.
In Winterson’s intimate, romantic rendering of Mary’s own tragic life—she never knew her famous writer mother; she lost three of her own children by the time she was 25—the psychological underpinnings of her nightmare vision of a monstrous creature brought to life are made clear. Turning that nightmare into a novel on a dare (to write the most frightening ghost story of all) led Shelley to explore attachment, and the fear of its extinction by death or, maybe worse, the death of love.