"Arguing with the Dead" is a great book! This reader, as a lover of the works of Jane Austin and Emily Brontë, (to name but two), was in her element from the very first turn of the page. Let me, however, qualify this; "Arguing with the Dead" is not a "historical work" in the same sense, it feels fresh and modern. It is a book written from a 21st Century perspective with the benefit of all the hindsight that provides its author. The story follows the life of Mary Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of the poet Percy Shelley and author of the powerful and disturbing work "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus". It is a retrospective of her life told in her own words and it is absolutely believable.
When one picks up a piece of historical fiction, especially one set in a time long past, there is a need for the writing to give a realistic sense of what it was like to live then. Do the settings feel right? Is the use of language as one might imagine being appropriate at the time? Whilst there are lots of excellent examples of works contemporary to the period out there, how does this match up? In Alex Nye's case, exquisitely. Each of the places she describes feel as you imagine they would and the characters are absolutely believable. As a result it is easy to develop a relationship with each character as their story is told.
Mary herself is a complicate mix. In her early life, she seems old beyond her years, but is also headstrong and knows that the life she has experienced is not the one she wants in her future. She becomes an adventurer and a free thinker and she turns her deepest thoughts into her most powerful writing, but she retains a streak of conventionality that she cannot shake off. This is particularly true in her relationship with Percy Shelley, though she would never want to admit it, for he comes over as the ultimate free spirit and she knows he would decry such views. Added colour in their complicated life, comes in the form of Claire, Mary's step sister to whom Shelley is drawn, though he claims only in a brotherly way. The existence of their unlikely threesome causes ripples among the polite society in which they move and they are driven to take to the road to escape the gossip and ill feeling this brings upon them.
"Arguing with the Dead" is the story of an unconventional adventure with real life characters whose lives are beautifully embroidered around them. It is a joy from beginning to end and has a beautifully rounded quality making it the most satisfying of reads. It is a work it is possible to become totally immersed in. Who knows if Mary and Percy Shelley were actually like this? This reader certainly hopes they were!