Literary Wonderlands proved to be a great success for publishers Modern Books and Black Dog & Leventhal, which means that a follow-up is coming out this autumn. Edited by Professor John Sutherland (Lives of the Novelists), the new book is called Literary Landscapes, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to it. Consequently I have written the chapters on Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The latter especially was a real privilege; Mary Shelley is buried not four miles from my office, so it’s perhaps inevitable I’ve long been a fan.
So much so that in 2011 I organised a screening of the 1931 film Frankenstein, together with Ken Russell’s Gothic (a wild drama about the events in 1816 which led to the writing of the novel), as a special closing night crossover between the Poole Literary Festival and the Purbeck Film Festival. Before the screening I was part of an on-stage discussion about the legacy of Mary Shelley with author Christine Aziz (The Olive Reader) and John Foster, Screenwriter-in-Residence at Bournemouth University. And it all took place on Halloween! Afterwards I went with my wife to St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth, where Mary Shelley is buried along with the remains of her husband Percy’s heart, to pay our respects.
When Shelley Manor in Boscombe was renovated and the old Shelley theatre opened for the first time in nearly a century we were there on the first night for a performance, by candlelight, of the play A Summer Without Sun, again about the events resulting in the writing of Mary’s most famous novel. So yes, a long time fan. And when Sir Christopher Frayling came to St. Peter’s Church this February and gave a most informative lecture about the history of the novel I was there.
So it was wonderful in this 200th anniversary year of the novel to be able to pen a chapter about the application of landscape in Frankenstein. Having studied geography at university, I found several of my lifelong interests converging in this project. In the end I’m just thrilled to have written the chapters on the work of the two most important female writers of all time for Literary Landscapes. I just hope I’ve done Mary and Jane justice.
Update: Since writing the post above I have found from the publisher that my chapter on Frankenstein, commissioned for Literary Landscapes, will now appear in the third volume in the series, Literary Journeys.