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Being Shelley: The Poet's Search for Himself

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  69 ratings  ·  13 reviews
From Ann Wroe--author of highly and widely praised Pontius Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man--comes another singularly iconoclastic achievement: a book about Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the greatest poets in the Western tradition, that is concerned at once with the making of poetry and the transforming power of it. Extraordinary for its elegance of style and comple ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Pantheon (first published July 1st 2007)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
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 ·  69 ratings  ·  13 reviews

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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
It’s been a while since I mentioned my academic research interests and my undergraduate dissertation.

I’ve had my results back: I got a 1st as my final classification and my dissertation on Shelley’s vegetarianism was an 80. I was so amazed! I think writing reviews on here for the last three years has helped; it’s like practicing lit-crit daily.

As such I’ve had slight break from my favourite writer, spending an entire year researching made me want to go and read other things for a while. But no
May 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I am astonished at the skill and clarity with which the author of this biography has defined the scope and approach to her biography of Shelly, and the beauty of the language she uses to tell his truly interesting man's story. I thought that Richard Holmes' biography would never be equalled or superceded, and I don't expect Wroe to replace him. She has found a way to focus her questions and concerns about Shelly in order to make a superb addition to our knowledge and insight into Shelly's mental ...more
Ricky Ganci
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was the strangest biography I’ve ever read. It was about as non-sequential as anything I have ever read—the order of events had absolutely nothing to do with what we were learning about Percy Shelley. Organized by elements, Wroe examines Shelley’s life as made up of his search for the Spirit of Beauty, and how he went about doing that. What I really liked about it was how Wroe portrayed him as a sort of mysterious and fantastical figure who predicted his own downfall and never really found ...more
Catherine Siemann
Jun 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romantics
An interesting approach, a biography organized by idea, rather than chronology. Wroe's attempt to get inside Shelley's head is more successful at some points than others, but having read this, I certainly feel I know a good deal more about him.
Charles Matthews
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the graduate school I attended, Keats was king. That had a lot to do with the university's possession of valuable Keats manuscripts and letters, and with the Keats scholars it attracted to the faculty. As a result, Shelley was somewhat overlooked. Though the two poets have a lot in common, Keats is more hard-edged, more precisely descriptive than Shelley, whose verse has a quality that I like to compare to the paintings of the Impressionists -- a play of light and shadow, a sense of the evane ...more
Peter Chandler
Aug 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
The unique approach of Ann Wroe's biography makes for an exceedingly worthy and noble attempt at recapturing the Romantic spirit of the poet Shelley for the modern age. It's depth of incite certainly speaks of a great labour of love and it all makes for a most inspiring and thought-provoking read. It is though inherently somewhat flawed, in its very approach of forgoing a traditional chronological narrative, of becoming somewhat confusing, elusive and infuriating at times. I cannot feel that the ...more
Peter Vicaire
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was written in an interesting format/manner - or as the author describes, "from the inside out," as she used much of Shelley's own poetry to mirror and set up his own bio. It's a neat approach and provides quite a fascinating look at a cat who was definitely out there, especially for his time, but whose thoughts on life (and death) resonate loud and clear today.
Mark McKenna
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelly was a wild man. Didn't finish this; I had too much required reading for reviews. I will return to it, though. "Being Shelley" is the kind of book you can pick up anytime and sink back into. I went to high school with one of Shelley's distant relatives, also named Percy. So I'm invested:)
Mar 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A well researched and fascinating but rather disorganized look at Shelley. The almost stream-of-consciousness approach to the writing the author uses in an attempt to look inside Shelley's death-obsessed mind is bewildering at best and makes this book difficult to read.
May 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Shelley was a certifiable nutter, if this book and the ones I've read on the Wollstonecraft/Godwin sisters are any indication. The experimental style the author's taken here does seem to give a sense of how completely ungrounded in anyone else's reality he was, which makes for an interesting read.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I feel as if I had read Peter Pan but Peter was a real life person with real concerns and issues.

She saw him too, in dreams; Hogg heard his light, quick steps still running, and Trelawney, gazing at the sea, heard his shrieking laugh again.
[...] And by a pond in London one might find a boat of folded paper not much larger than a dragonfly, inscribed with lines that had begun to blur and run:

I am not
Your obedient servant,
P. B. Shelley

Far away, serenely, Vesper glittered in the darkening sky.
Susan Baumgartner
Excited to delve into the backstory of this man. Manage a trois??? You go, Shelley....
Sigh, my life isn't such that I can curl up with this one for the time it deserves.
Shelley's poetry has caused many a young girl's head to spin and Ann Wroe is no exception. A problematic book.
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Ann Wroe is a journalist and author - working as Briefings and Obituaries editor of The Economist. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society of Literature and the English Association.