Reviews & Interviews

"Charlotte Gordon’s double biography of England’s great early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and the daughter who was born of her mother’s death, Mary Shelley. Romantic Outlaws is marvelous, passionate stuff."


"Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws is a double biography of two Marys, Wollstonecraft and Shelley… fascinating duet. The accumulated detail of places, characters and historical events gives these two lives a hallucinatory realism."


"Gordon interweaves the story of two extraordinary women with skill and sympathy."


"What you'll learn in Charlotte Gordon's double biography of these extraordinary women, Romantic Outlaws, will surprise and delight you."


"Gordon unfolds the two stories in tandem, deftly balancing the gossipy aspects of her subjects’ lives with their serious intellectual concerns."


"By linking these two lives, Ms. Gordon’s biography stretches over a fascinating era in history, characterized by great flux in political and cultural thinking and involving some of the main figures in English literary and philosophical history."

— Karin Altenberg, WALL STREET JOURNAL

"Gordon makes a compelling case that each woman's intellectual legacy has been underappreciated. She also argues persuasively that the two were linked by more than just blood: Wollstonecraft's life and principles had a profound impact on her daughter, an influence critics largely have ignored."


As Gordon reminds us of Wollstonecraft — "She started a revolution that has yet to end."


"Gordon tells the women’s stories side by side in alternating chapters, illustrating the choices mother and daughter made at similar life stages, and how Mary Shelley and her stepsister Claire tried to live up to their mother’s revolutionary legacy."


"Gordon's enthusiasm for her subjects [sweeps] along in a torrent of passion and politics, love and loss. Gordon's greatest achievement is to breathe fresh life into Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley."


"Gordon salutes her subjects because they 'asserted their right to determine their own destinies, starting a revolution that has yet to end.'"


"Gordon’s style is warm and engaging and she has produced a fascinating and detailed analysis of two extraordinary women and how they lived their lives in a patriarchy as writers and reformers."


"An impassioned dual biography…Gordon brings a rousing zeal to her pages…. She shows, in vivid detail, how mother influenced daughter, and how the daughter’s struggles mirrored the mother’s."


"The relationship between Mary Shelley and the mother she never knew — Mary explored with remarkable insight and perspicacity in this exhilarating dual biography. ...Gordon’s perceptive reading of both women’s published works illuminates their core ideas, including complementary critiques of patriarchy, and identifies the emotional fault lines caused by the drama in their lives. Her lucid prose and multifaceted appraisal of Wollstonecraft, Shelley, and their times make warm-blooded and fully fleshed-out people of writers who exist for readers today only as the literary works they left behind."


"This excellent dual biography…examines the profound influence Wollstonecraft had on Shelley and the impact both women have had on women's rights in succeeding generations. Gordon’s prose is compelling and her scholarship meticulous, her contention that both women led lives 'as memorable as the words they left behind' is brilliantly supported."


"Charlotte Gordon has written a book about two women, a mother and her daughter, who changed not only the way we think, but the way we are…Skillfully entwining the story of two generations that spanned a century Gordon's Romantic Outlaws enables readers to compare the different ways in which these two remarkable women confronted their tragically difficult destinies…[A] thoughtful, intelligent and deeply felt book."


"The engrossing dual biography of the famous mother and daughter who never knew one another is told in alternating chapters so as to enable the reader to "hear the echo of Wollstonecraft in Shelley's letters, journals and novels," and to show how Wollstonecraft addressed herself to the future and to the daughter she planned to raise. Through this parallel portrait, Gordon shows how both mother and daughter attempted to free themselves from the stranglehold of polite society, while struggling to balance their need to be loved with their need for independence."

The Bookseller

"Romantic Outlaws is a gripping account of the heartbreaks and triumphs of two of history’s most formidable female intellectuals, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Gordon has reunited mother and daughter through biography, beautifully weaving their narratives for the first time."

author of A World on Fire

"A fascinating, thoughtful and continuously absorbing book, one to which I know I shall return on many future occasions"


"Gordon’s dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, is an irresistible account of two unconventional women, mother and daughter, who broke new ground with their writings and beliefs, and paid a high price."


"Full of enriching paradox… Charlotte Gordon has managed to produce that rare thing, a work of genuinely popular history... It works beautifully."

—Melissa Benn, NEW STATESMAN

"Wollstonecraft and Shelley were extraordinary women who led sensational lives. They were Romantic revolutionaries… retelling their story cannot fail to captivate and provoke."


"An exceptional achievement"

—Michael Morpugo, DAILY TELEGRAPH

"A new biography explores the outrageous lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley."


"In Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, Charlotte Gordon interleaves the experiences of mother and daughter in alternating chapters. The result is an innovative dual biography that foregrounds the writing of two women who disregarded the moral codes of their eras and shaped their own destinies. Gordon’s parallel mapping of their lives reveals fascinating similarities in the ways writing sustained, and sometimes saved, them both."


"An excellent and poignant book whose heroines breathe in its pages..."


"A most welcome deeper take on the women who scandalized Victorian England — and whose stories continue to resonate today."


"Mother and daughter shadow and reveal each other. The retelling emphasizes the extent to which Shelley’s life was shaped by her mother’s legacy but here is underlined in thought-provoking ways... In Gordon’s narrative, [Wollstonecraft and Shelley] appear at their best and bravest."


"Gordon infuses literary history with electrifying discoveries in this symbiotic portrait of radical mother-daughter writers who indelibly changed society and the arts...The first to fully investigate the life-determining influence Wollstonecraft's feminist writings had on Mary Shelley, Gordon chronicles their harsh, tragic, and courageous lives in alternating chapters that are emotionally incisive and finely particularized..."


“Wordsworth and Byron must step aside to make room for two brilliant women, Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, early and late Romantics whose remarkable contributions to their time and ours lend Gordon’s artfully twined tale special significance.”

—MEGAN MARSHALL, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and The Peabody Sisters

"Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley stand out as daring, unconventional, and courageous women — in their times and ours. Appreciate the ‘heroic exertions’ of their lives and savor the skill with which Charlotte Gordon tells their intersecting stories."

general editor American National Biography