The book is broken up into poems, each titled as a chapter would be in a traditional novel. This division provides a natural break for the reader, as most poems encompass a major event or emotion, then move smoothly to the next experience. The flow of each poem individually is affected by the line breaks, which are well-placed to make the reader pause and think about certain words and ideas. For example:
“I busy myselfThe short lines inspire the reader to ruminate on what is being said, instead of rushing on to the next line. “I busy myself” and “I want to speak” stand out as the actions, implying that Mary is trying hard to come up with a story but can’t, though she wants to get the words out. “Mysterious fears,” “awaken,” and “thrilling horror” stand out in the next two lines, adding urgency and emotion to the stanza. The last line is a let down, deflating after the build-up immediately before.
to think of a story,
but sadly the muse does not
arrive. I want to speak
to the mysterious fears
of our nature and to awaken
Nothing comes to me” (126).
There is no rhyme scheme in the poems of this book; it is written in free verse.
The individual poems have no particular sound as far as alliteration, consonance, repeated words, and so on. However, there is the tone (maybe just in my imagination) of a somewhat quiet yet educated voice reading these poems in a level voice.
The language in this book is perfectly chosen. Each word sounds like one Mary Shelley herself would pick for her writing, so it really helps the reader become immersed in her life story. Most ideas, emotions, and experiences are explained in straight-forward terms without simile or metaphor, but that does not diminish the quality of the story at all. In fact, I think it helps to make the book seem like it is actually from the 1800s.
Sensory words are used to establish the environment of Mary’s childhood home and her overbearing stepmother. It effectively conveys the destitute journeys Mary and Shelley took in the early years of their relationship. And it vividly draws the reader in to Mary’s grief… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The emotion in this book is my favorite aspect. Mary is so sure of herself as a young teenager, and then falls so helplessly in love, and all of that is shared with the reader. The rocky start to her relationship and all the heartache that comes later is felt in the words of the poems. Though the book is so emotional, it is not heavy-handed, not forcing the reader to shed tears due to sentimentality. Instead, the language stays matter-of-fact and true to Shelley’s style. For example:
“I see my futureSimple language and a simple idea, but beautifully expressed to sweep the reader away with the words.
now not as something
intangible like a dream,
but like a boat
after time spent at sea,
a destination I will reach” (38).