The popular story of Mary Shelley creating Frankenstein is that a group of writers spending time at a lodge were challenged to write a scary story and Shelley's was chosen as the most disturbing. Beyond that, I don't think I've ever heard much about Shelley's life. I certainly never heard that she was an unwed mother or that the poet Shelley was married when he met Mary and they ran away together. Mary Shelley's life was full of tragic events, many of which originated with her tumultuous relationship with Shelley. Although her father wrote rhapsodic about free love, he was not supportive when Mary decided to pursue her own relationship so the two young lovers were banished and found themselves wandering Europe. Shelley's reputation as a cad resulted in a lack of money for the pair in addition to the many deaths that surrounded them.
This is a fascinating, and disturbing, biography full of information I didn't know about at all. The text is descriptive and evocative and it, by itself, wrapped me in a dark, grim mood. But in addition to the writing, there are the moody illustrations that show you the pain Mary is feeling and the monster hovering behind her at every step. The entire book just works together to really take you into her life and gives you a real sense of the darkness that inspired the timeless story in the first place.