Mathilda by Mary Shelley is a short work that was suppressed from publication by her father and was only first published a century after her death.
Considering the content of this book, that certainly sheds a different light upon the possibly autobiographical nature of the book. However, the darkest aspects of this book are conjecture only (with William Godwin supressing the novella to avoid rumours), with the writing about the father’s grief at losing his wife and inability to care for his daughter being that which mimicked life.
I read this for the Mary-Shelley-A-Thon for the prompt of reading a book/poem by Shelley herself, and I’m glad that motivated me to pick up this interesting little read. I went into the book completely blind and was very surprised by the content (I recommend checking the trigger warnings for this one if you need to, they’ll be highlightable down below).
This book is very dark, following a young woman’s life without love and with much pain. She blames herself for the actions of her father and cannot reconcile to forgive herself, despite not being to blame whatsoever. Mathilda is in complete isolation for the majority of this book, left to be introspective alone.
Shelley depicts Mathilda’s mental deterioration with skill. You can see the character’s slow mental decline whilst attempting to tackle her thoughts and demons. Being isolated certainly causes these to develop much further than they would’ve in company and leads her down a very dark path.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 8, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving a score of 7.57 and a 4* rating.
Highlight here for trigger warnings: death of parent, incest, suicidal thoughts, suicide, grief, adult/minor relationship, mental illness, terminal illness, paedophilia.
This book is only a first draft, as she sent this draft to her father and he never released it back to her. Despite that it is well crafted and really shows Shelley’s talent. I can only imagine what this novella could have become if Shelley had been able to spend time on revisions.
Have you read Shelley’s most famous novel? Frankenstein. Or any of her other works? If so let me know your thoughts on her writing! I think I might need to pick up more from her in the future.