Just a Queen and Summer of Monsters: The Scandalous Story of Mary Shelley are enjoyable and empowering novels for women of all ages and will be a great resource for students studying English. Both are based on the lives of famous women — Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) and Mary Shelley (1797-1851).
Elizabeth I and Mary Shelley shared many things: both had “scandalous” mothers who died young, Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, beheaded by order of her father, Henry VIII, and Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, losing her life in childbirth. Both Elizabeth and Mary had weak fathers who abandoned them to cruel and lonely childhoods. Both fathers destroyed the mothers’ reputations: Henry VIII accused Anne Boleyn of adultery; William Godwin diminished Mary Wollstonecraft’s achievements as a philosopher and feminist by publishing a scandalous biography of her.
Both young women were exceptionally intelligent and insightful about the sexual politics of their time that effectively repressed women. Elizabeth astutely avoided scandal, knowing how dangerous it was to her authority as a queen. Mary Godwin chose a scandalous life running off with married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Despite challenges, her relationship with Percy provided her with the experience and insight to write her ground-breaking novel, Frankenstein.
Both women have a strong commitment to improving society. Elizabeth hated war and endeavoured to create a stable and peaceful society. Mary Shelley was wary of the devastating impact that the Industrial Revolution had on people’s humanity.
Both lived at a time when having a child was a life-threatening experience for most women.
The two novels look at how scandal shapes women. Mary succumbed to love and scandal but learned and grew from it. Elizabeth determinedly avoided it, knowing too well that scandal for a woman can so easily destroy a woman.