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From Ann Wroe, a biographer of the first rank, comes a startlingly original look at one of the greatest poets in the Western tradition.
Being Shelley aims to turn the poet's life inside out: rather than tracing the external events of his life, she tracks the inner journey of a spirit struggling to create. In her quest to understand the radically unconventional Shelley, Wroe pursues the questions that consumed the poet himself. Shelley sought to free and empower the entire human race; his revolution was meant to shatter illusions, shock men and women with new visions, find true love and liberty—and take everyone with him. Now, for the first time, this passionate quest is put at the center of his life. The result is a Shelley who has never been seen in biography before.
"Intensely imaginative. . . . A biography that reads like poetry itself. . . . Wroe manages to get inside Shelley's head, a mighty peculiar place."
"If you are a fan of Percy Bysshe Shelley, you will love Ann Wroe's Being Shelley. . . . Her approach topples conventions. . . . She climbs inside his head."
—The Plain Dealer
“An extraordinary feat of scholarship. . . . A risky but singularly exhilarating book.”
—Richard Holmes, The Guardian
"Visionary . . . daring . . . [Being Shelley] is anchored gracefully in biographical and textual detail."
“Wroe tries to see as Shelley saw—to inhabit his consciousness and capture its every movement. This is, as she frankly says, “an experiment,” and any reader who opens the book expecting a conventional biography is in for a surprise . . . . like an alchemist at the cauldron, she volatilizes Shelley’s life and work . . . . Fortunately, Wroe seems to have Shelley’s entire life and work spread out before her in a mental map, allowing her to draw some unexpected connections.”—The New Yorker
“She treads where Shelley’s contemporaries did not or could not go. She accompanies him into his dreams and fantasies. They are the heart of her book. She explores his obsessions—with the chains of the prison house, with fire and with electricity, with death and the wind, with revenants and shadows. She reveals the pattern of his imagery, as delicate and evanescent as the pattern of a snowflake. . . . Yet in the end Being Shelley becomes a mirror of the poet himself—whimsical, various, subtle and iridescent and evanescent.” —Peter Ackroyd, The Times