Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley” as Want to Read:
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

by
4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,627 ratings  ·  501 reviews
Romantic Outlaws is the first book to tell the story of the passionate and pioneering lives of Mary Wollstonecraft – English feminist and author of the landmark book, The Vindication of the Rights of Women – and her novelist daughter Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Although mother and daughter, these two brilliant women never knew one another – Wollstonecraft died of
...more
Hardcover, 649 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Random House (first published April 23rd 2015)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,627 ratings  ·  501 reviews


Filter
 | 
Sort order
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of on my BookTube channel, From Beginning to Bookend.



An intimate look at the lives of two extraordinary women who unapologetically broke with convention and scandalized Victorian England.
Marita
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in the Romantic Poets and/or feminism
This biography of mother Mary Wollstonecraft and daughter Mary Shelley served my purposes very well. Whilst knowing of them, I didn't know very much about them. It is written in an easy to read novelistic style, with notes and bibliography in the last part of the book. What was a bit awkward was that the chapters alternated between the two women, and so I found that I would just be enjoying a particular part of the story when suddenly I would have to do a mental scene change and switch to the ot ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 I have thought long and hard what to put in this review. Brilliant mother and daughter, fighters for women's rights, led lives that were frowned upon during their days and penned books that have impacted many and lived on. The author does a great job telling their stories in alternating chapters, using crisp and clear dialogue and moving the narrative forward at a stay pace. At times though I would be interested in one part of the narrative and it would end and switch to the other. Could kee ...more
Jaylia3
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley utterly enthralled me. Both were talented, groundbreaking, independent thinking women, they each had drama and difficulties in their lives worthy of a Brontë novel, and between them they knew intimately some of the most interesting people involved with Romantic literature and radical political thought from the French Revolution through to the mid-Victorian years.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born into a poor family with a
...more
Quirkyreader
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As soon as I started reading this double biography I got sucked in. It chronicles the lives of two amazing Marys. Mary Wollstonecraft the reformer and her daughter Mary Godwin Shelley.

MW and MGS both became famous in their own right during the times when they lived. Nowadays the more well known of the two is MGS because of her story "Frankenstein".

I have read previous biographies about both Marys. And this one will proudly sit on my self with other biographies I have about these amazing women a
...more
Abigail
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This book borders on wrist-breaker status but despite the volume I wish there was more to read. I picked it up as more of a self-education piece and break from fiction, not really thinking about the entertainment factor. I learned so much. I had no idea who Mary Wollstonecraft was or how much hardship she and her daughter, Mary Shelley, went through during their lifetimes. Their hardships, strengths of character and literary talent make them incredibly inspirational.

Mary Wollstonecraft is born i
...more
Chari
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, favoritos
Guau! qué vidas las de Wollstonecraft y su hija Mary... Ellas, Shelley, Byron, Godwin.. escritores que junto con el resto de integrantes de sus respectivas biografías, demás familiares, como hermanas e hijos, amigos y no tan amigos, son “personajes”, seres, que se van a quedar conmigo por lo hondo que me han calado.

Cuantas cosas he aprendido de este libro..

Me parece altamente recomendable esta doble biografía. Charlotte Gordon dedica cada capítulo a una Mary, y así, con ambas a la vez avanzamos
...more
Louise
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) died within days of giving birth to Mary Godwin who became Mary Shelley the writer/creator of “Frankenstein”. While death was a physical separation of Wollstonecraft and her daughter, author Charlotte Gordon explores how Wollstonecraft and her views on the role of women were embedded in Mary Godwin Shelley.

While the facts speak for themselves (women had no legal rights either to their property or their children in deference to a father or husband) Gordon shows throug
...more
Sherwood Smith
Eminently readable biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. It's swapped off, each woman every other chapter. I found it best to skip the chapters and read one then the other. Well researched, but the author couldn't resist inserting her own opinions, occasionally self-servingly modern, even fatuous (such as the one about Claire Clairmont converting to Catholicism late in life to "share the same upbringing as her dead daughter") which has a tendency to make me look very warily at other ...more
Bettie☯
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b064xjn1

Description: Juliet Aubrey and Ellie Kendrick read Charlotte Gordon's extraordinary biography of the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and her novelist daughter, Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.

Mary Wollstonecraft, famous for her polemic A Vindication on the Rights of Woman, died ten days after giving birth to her daughter who wrote one of the nineteenth century's most significant novels, Frankenstein. Though she never knew her mother, Mary
...more
Judith E
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The bra burning feminists of the 1960’s can’t hold a candle to Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley, and their revolutionary ideals of the 1800’s. Their feminist philosophy was shared with a large circle of liberal minded friends and family - Thomas Payne, Samuel Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, William Godwin, and John and Abigail Adams, to name a few.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s philosophical writings proposed education for women, protection from marital cruelty and in
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is such a fantastic biography that I suspect it will become my gold standard. It’s a dual biography of two well-known female intellectuals (who were also mother and daughter), Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. All I knew of either woman before reading this was her most famous book, but as it turns out they both lived fascinating – and, because they were writers, well-documented – lives. Both traveled internationally (Wollstonecraft even lived in France in the midst of its revolution), w ...more
Amanda
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I listened to the audiobook, which was really well done. I had very little trouble remembering who was whom and such, though I didn't stress about remembering every single detail. It was fascinating to learn about the two Marys, how their work intersected with their lives and what unorthodox lives they led. This was overall a really, REALLY engaging dual biography and I highly recommend it.
Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk)
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pierwsza taka podwójna biografia, niezwykle inspirująca opowieść o życiu matki i córki, dwóch skandalistek swojej epoki – Mary Wollstonecraft i jej córki... Mary Shelley, autorki "Frankensteina", czyli „Buntowniczki” Charlotte Gordon.

Nie znały się długo, bo zaledwie dziesięć dni. Matka marzyła o lepszym świecie dla swojej córeczki, a córka całe życie wspominała matkę. Mary Wollstonecraft i Mary Shelley, matka i córka, dwie niezwykłe kobiety, które połączył los, które były tak blisko i tak daleko
...more
G.
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some write of what was; others of what is, she said, but I write of what will be.

Almost 700 pages of pure crack. I didn't want to put it down. True, I've always been fascinated with Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, but this book delved into their motivations, their lives and the parallels between them, on a whole different level. If you don't have time for reading multiple biographies but are interested in these two luminaries, read Romantic Outlaws. Give it a chance, even if you think you
...more
Jenn
I've never been much for lengthy non-fiction tomes. I can count on one hand the number of biographies I've made it through, and yet, I'm obsessed with history - with the stories and human accounts, not the dry, sterile statistics. However, I was determined to at least skim through this book, because, after just finishing Frankenstein, I've become obsessed with Mary Shelley and her obvious genius. I've always been a poetry lover, but I have come late to the appreciation of the Romantic poets. I'v ...more
TheSkepticalReader
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read for Tales & Co. | Review originally posted on A Skeptical Reader.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon is a biography about the infamous mother-daughter duo, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Each chapter alternates between Shelley and Wollstonecraft and captures as much detail as is speculated or established about the two women. Although an intimidating tome from the outside, the biography within is a fast
...more
Amy Sturgis
These comments are based on an advanced reader copy provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for making it available.

“Without knowing the history of the era, the difficulties Wollstonecraft and Shelley faced are largely invisible, their bravery incomprehensible. Even those who revere mother and daughter do not fully realize how profoundly they challenged the moral code of the day. Yet both women were what Wollstonecraft termed ‘outlaws.’ Not only
...more
El
I read about this book on Guardian.com and immediately wondered where a book like this has been all of my life.

I've been a longtime fan of both Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, more so about their lives than their writing itself, though fully appreciating their writing even if I haven't always enjoyed what I read. But these two ladies, they had cojones and I think either one would have been a hoot to spend time with in their days.

As far as I know, this is the first dual biography which is a
...more
Natalie (CuriousReader)
"Romantic Outlaws" is the ambitious double biography of Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, written by Charlotte Gordon. The choice for combining the two women’s life stories might seem strange to anyone who knows of their time-lines; Shelley’s birth coincided with her mother’s death, not spending more than a few days on earth at the same time. So what do their stories have to do with one another? As Gordon masterfully shows, we see not only parallels in the daughter Mary Shelley’s life choice ...more
Natalia
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Conocí a Frankenstein cuando era niña, por la televisión, la representación del monstruo hecho de múltiples cadáveres, que a veces era bueno y otras veces era un ser destructivo sin compasión, lo curioso del monstruo de Frankenstein es que nunca se deja de asombrar o de empatizar, porque una vez que se ve debajo de la superficie (Y si uno es capaz de hacerlo también) se puede encontrar la raíz de tanto sufrimiento, rechazo y situaciones traumáticas que muchas veces pueden llegar a identificarnos ...more
Nancy
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, favorites

The Romantic Outlaws: Mary Wollstonecraft and her Daughter Mary Shelley was a compelling read. Charlotte Gordon presents parallel biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley in alternating chapters.

These brilliant and iconoclastic women embraced ideals that made them social outcasts. They fell hard for men who broke their hearts. They both spent time as outcast, single mothers of illegitimate children. They believed--gasp--that women were equal to men in intelligence and potential; they
...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
The book begins with expression of a dream of both women-that the day would come when men and women were equal, that all would deserve and be given the same rights, that human reason and the capacity for love would reform the world, that all would agree that the great enemies of happiness are cruelty, poverty, ignorance and tyranny, and that everyone is entitled to freedom and justice. Obedience is viewed as oppression.
Although there is obviously a generation's difference as they are mother and
...more
Charmaine
Apr 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
Well, I finally gave up on this one before I finished it. I just couldn't take it anymore! Although this biography is fairly well written, there are many things I dislike about it. I will describe just two of them.

First of all, the chapters alternate between the two separate life stories of of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. This made it very difficult to stay connected with each story. By the time I finished a chapter on Mary W., I had forgotten where we were in the story of Mary S. I eve
...more
Roman Clodia
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mary-shelley
Gordon has given us two parallel biographies here of mother and daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Cleverly retelling their lives in alternate chapters, she manages to avoid the emphasis going to one or other woman, while subtly bringing out similarities between their ideas and the shapes that their lives took.

This is particularly important since I think most of us will be more familiar with Shelley's life than Wollstonecraft's, even though the latter probably had the more extraord
...more
Laura
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Juliet Aubrey and Ellie Kendrick read Charlotte Gordon's extraordinary biography of the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and her novelist daughter, Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.

1/5: Charlotte Gordon's biography of the pioneering feminist and her novelist daughter.

2/5: Charlotte Gordon explores the writing lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley.

3/5: Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley make though choices.

4/5: Testing times lie ahead when
...more
Rachel Aranda
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-rentals
This book earned a solid 4.5 star rating from me. This has to be one of the best biographies that I have ever read! I have no idea how Mrs. Gordon was able to write a book about two famous writers (a mother and daughter) and not have the book be messy. With all the information about their lives available from research it would make sense that a reader would get information confused about either the mother or the daughter (especially since they share a first name), but I was able to keep track of ...more
Christy B
This biography is to Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley what The Brontës is to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. Meaning: if there is one book you want to read on the two Marys, this is the one.

One unique thing about the book was the alternate chapters. Instead of talking about both women in a chapter, Gordon instead would dedicate one chapter to each woman at a period in her life. We literally go back and forth between the two.

Wollstonecraft, unfortunately, did not have as long
...more
Whitney Milam
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most extraordinary, riveting biographies I've ever read - extensively researched and contextualized (literary Romanticism was my main focus in college and I've had years of independent study on the main figures in the movement - it's rare for me to read a book about them, now, that contains more than a few facts, quotes, or anecdotes I haven't already heard or read. This book had DOZENS, all placed into perfect historical and literary context, examined with complexity and compassion, ...more
Melanie Spaulding
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Come for the literary history, stay for the crazy scandals -- free love, multiple illegitimate children, love triangles galore (Mary, her half-sister, Claire, and P.B.Shelley, and later Claire, Shelley and Lord Byron), the League of Incest, and the literal snatching of Shelley's heart from his burning funeral pyre by a distraught fanboy who dug his own grave next to Shelley's, while telling Mary that there would hopefully be room for her later. Reading this book was like indulging in the 19th ce ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle
  • The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
  • Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart
  • Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation
  • The Lives of Margaret Fuller
  • The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein
  • Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Margaret Fuller: A New American Life
  • Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame
  • Eleanor Marx: A Life
  • Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life
  • The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Mary Shelley
  • The Brontë Myth
  • Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion
  • The Brontës
  • Byron: Life and Legend
  • Lady Byron and Her Daughters
“But the paradox of their success is that most modern readers are unaware of the overwhelming obstacles both women had to overcome. Without knowing the history of the era, the difficulties Wollstonecraft and Shelley faced are largely invisible, their bravery incomprehensible. Both women were what Wollstonecraft termed “outlaws.” Not only did they write world-changing books, they broke from the strictures that governed women’s conduct, not once but time and again, profoundly challenging the moral code of the day. Their refusal to bow down, to subside and surrender, to be quiet and subservient, to apologize and hide, makes their lives as memorable as the words they left behind. They asserted their right to determine their own destinies, starting a revolution that has yet to end.” 3 likes
“The real problem, said Mary, was not women, but how men wanted women to be.” 2 likes
More quotes…