5 Sep 2018

Review - Claire's Last Secret by Marty Ambrose

Title: Claire's Last Secret

Author: Marty Ambrose

Release date: September 1st, 2018

Synopsis:

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the 'haunted summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley circle, is living out her final years in genteel poverty, but the appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece/companion, Paula.

But Rossetti's presence in Florence heralds a cycle of events that links the summer of 1816 - when Claire conceived an ill-fated child with George Gordon, Lord Byron, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and when four tempestuous lives came together - to a tragic death. As Claire begins to unravel the truth, she must go back to that summer of passion to discover the identity of her old enemy.

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:

Claire's Last Secret is the first book in a trilogy that unrolls a mystery involving Claire's long lost daughter, Allegra. Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley's half sister usually doesn't get much recognition when the creative group that spent the 'haunted summer' in Geneva is mentioned. It's little wonder actually, given that she was the only member of the party that didn't turn her experiences of that summer into a literary success.

However, in her novel Marty Ambrose wants to show us that despite the fact that she didn't produce anything lasting from a literary point of view, Claire was still as important part of the circle as any other member. According to the author she deserves to be remembered in a favourable light, as someone who inspired Byron and the Shelleys with her love and friendship.

I'll confess it was hard for me to think with the writer's head in the beginning, because I had my own picture of Claire, which wasn't exactly flattering. I've read several biographies of the Shelleys, and Claire has always come across as a pushy, somewhat annoying individual, who always wanted to be the centre of attention. It is rumoured she had an affair with Shelley as well, and if it's true, it was an awful betrayal towards Mary.

In Claire's Last Secret we meet a very different Claire though. In the book she is an old lady who remembers her youth and sees her youthful foolishness in a very reasonable light. She doesn't regret anything and she wouldn't change anything in her past. She accepts herself as she is; someone who is chiefly driven by her emotions. I think it's a pretty romantic notion that the heart leads a person's actions, not the head and this simple twist on the character of Claire made her foolish decisions a lot more acceptable for me.

The book is written in a lovely manner, it was a joy to read. It's always great to revisit the events in The Villa Diodati during 'the year without summer', but it's even better if the writing is exquisite. To take a boat trip with Byron and Shelley, to be there when Mary Shelley reads from Frankenstein for the first time.... ahh to be there... 

If you like the second generation of romantics, or know nothing of them, either way, this can be a fun read. I'll definitely pick up the second book.



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