Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: Out of the Shadows by Joanne Rendell

Author: Joanne Rendell

Genre: Women's Fiction/Literary Fiction

About (From Joanne Rendell):

Clara Fitzgerald’s recent losses have set her adrift, personally and professionally. Her mother has passed away, and her career seems stalled while her fiancĂ©'s scientific research is poised to take off in an exciting new direction. As great as the potential is for his future, Clara can't help - or ignore - that her emotional connection to him has slowly been slipping away.

But when Clara stumbles on an old copy of Frankenstein and remembers her mother’s claim that they are related to the nineteenth-century author, Mary Shelley, everything changes. With her sister in tow and the help of Kay, a retired Shelley scholar, Clara embarks on a search for the author's long lost journals and letters. As a bond among the three women grows, and as the profound connection between the past and present deepens, Clara comes closer to realizing where her heart truly belongs.

My Thoughts:

Out of the Shadows is a novel that is told from alternating viewpoints between Clara, a thirty-something professor and Mary Shelley as a young girl and woman prior to her writing Frankenstein. Clara lives in the shadow of her  fiance a geneticist and professor. Anthony's focus is in the lab trying to develop a drug to fight cancer. Clara's mother had always claimed while Clara was growing up, that they were related to author Mary Shelley. When Clara runs across an old copy of Frankenstein it sparks an interest for her to pursue if there truly is a connection. With the help of Clara's sister and a new friendship with Kay, an older woman who is a retired scholar of Shelley, Clara goes on a quest to find Shelley's long lost journals and letters. During the search Clara unearths some truths about herself and her fiance that surprise her. I found the alternating points of view between Clara and Mary Shelley to flow well and were very interesting. I have not read Frankenstein and don't know much about Shelley so I found these parts  of Out of the Shadows very interesting. It has piqued my interest in reading Frankenstein and more about Shelley. I find it amazing that Shelley was just 19 when Frankenstein was published. Out of the Shadows was a well written novel full of wonderful characters and a storyline that made me think. I found Clara to be a strong women even though she was naive with Anthony and didn't see things more clearly sooner. Her relationship with Kay, the Shelley scholar who was dealing with her own health issues at the time was sweet and touching. Kay was my most favorite character in the book as she had such grace and wisdom. I have read all of Joanne Rendell's novels and Out of the Shadows is my favorite.

Recommend: Yes, especially those fans of strong literary fiction and women's fiction as well as those who are interested in or are fans of Frankenstein and Shelley.

Source: Thanks to the author Joanne Rendell who sent me a signed copy of this book.

Why I chose this book: I've read and reviewed and enjoyed Joanne's 2 previous novels, read reviews here for The Professors' Wives Club and Crossing Washington Square. When Joanne asked me to read her newest novel Out of the Shadow, I jumped at the chance as I am a fan of her writing.

About the Author Joanne Rendell:

Joanne grew up in England yet when Joanne was young she had a crush on the Big Apple. When she was ten years old, in fact, she wrote a series of stories about a couple of kids who find a magic footpath in New York’s Central Park. After leaving school, Joanne went to the University of Leeds in Yorkshire where she completed a degree in English Literature and Philosophy. The student life was too much fun for Joanne, so she went on to do a Masters at King’s College London and then a PhD in English Literature at the University of Sheffield. She met a professor from the U.S. named Brad Lewis.

Joanne and Brad started to write papers together, organize conference panels, email furiously, and eventually they fell hopelessly in love. After Joanne was done with her PhD, she upped sticks and moved to New York to be with Brad, who teaches at NYU. Not long after they got married, and not too much longer after that, their son Benny arrived on the scene.

Over the past seven years, Joanne has juggled life as a homeschooling mum with writing novels. She hasn’t left academia completely behind. She and Brad are faculty in residence in one of NYU dorms and they run events, book groups, and programs for the students who live in their building. Also, Joanne’s novels are all set at Manhattan U – a university in downtown New York which looks, she does admit, a little like NYU. 


  1. I remember that you liked the author's previous novels so it says a lot that this latest is your favorite. Nice review, Bonnie.

  2. I loved Kay too. I liked this book a lot and enjoyed the present day plot more than the historical one.

  3. This one is definitely going on the wish list!

  4. Yet another one of Joanne's that sounds good. I'm so behind in my reading with everything that's happened. I wonder if I'll ever catch up. Glad you enjoyed this one Bonnie.

  5. I like this author too, in fact, your review of Crossing Washington Square is the one that got me started on her!!! I will read this one for sure!

  6. I really liked this book too, and even had a chance to talk to Joanne about it and FRANKENSTEIN on my new podcast, which was a great experience.


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