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Lady and Her Monsters, The Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 5, 2013

51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

A Look Inside The Lady and Her Monsters

Galvani's Experiment
From Giovanni Aldini's text, Essai theoretique experimental sur le galvanism, depicting two decapitated cadavers and his efforts to restore movements to them.
Burke and Hare Suffocating   Mrs. Docherty
Mrs. Docherty was suffocated and her body sold to Dr. Knox for dissection. The killers used the method known as 'burking' - plying their victim with drink then suffocating her. Mrs. Docherty was their last victim.
Panorama of the River   Thames
In the 18th century, the river provided a great divide between social classes in London. It was also from one of its bridges that Mary Wollstonecraft jumped trying to commit suicide.
Frankenstein Observing the   first stirring of his creature.
Frankenstein Observing the first stirring of his creature -- This is a print from the 1831 edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Scores of books and movies have retold the infamous tale of the ghost-story contest that gave rise to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but Montillo digs deeper (so to speak) in this dual history of literature and science. Half the book is simply one of the most readable biographical portraits you’ll find of Mary Shelley—the standoffish, spiteful, but brilliant daughter of a famous feminist mother and philosopher father, and whose torrid love affair with the wild poet Percy Shelley (aka “Mad Shelley”) kicked off with premarital midnight sex in a cemetery and only got weirder from there. Alternating with Mary’s narrative is the hellacious history of the rock-star anatomists of the 1700s, who enthralled Percy, and, by extension, Mary, with their grotesque forays into “galvanism,” the manipulation of dead muscle via electrical current. Both plots come lumbering at each other like, well, monsters until that fateful summer in Geneva when Mary stitched her various influences together into a single literary beast. Montillo is an academic but unafraid of salaciousness, injecting into her tale an invigorating solution of sex, gore, and gossip as we reach both the end of Mary’s woeful life and the end of the anatomists’ grave-robbing free-for-all as it ceded to the Anatomy Act. Sick, smart, shocking, and spellbinding. --Daniel Kraus

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: WilliamMr; 1 edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062025813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062025814
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roseanne Montillo is an accomplished author, who, as a Truth Seeker, aims to uncover the truth behind fascinating mysteries through her enthralling literary works. Her latest books include The Wilderness of Ruin, The Lady and Her Monsters, and Halloween and Commemoration of the Dead.

Montillo was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Soon after her birth, her family moved to Italy, to a small town in the southern region of Calabria, and returned to the United States while she was in high school in 1988.

Montillo attended Medford High School, graduating in 1991, and went on to attend Fisher College in Boston, where she received an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts. She then transferred to Emerson College and received her BFA in writing and literature in 1996. She continued at Emerson to receive her MFA in creating writing in 1998.

Montillo taught for Lesley University and the Tufts Extension School, in classes such as Mystery Writing, Mystery Literature, Victorian Literature, Creative Writing, and Writing the Personal Essay. Since 2009, Montillo has taught in the Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College. Her courses include Forbidden Knowledge and Love and Eroticism in Western Civilization. Both are a combination of literature, history, philosophy, and writing. She has also taught a class titled The History of Blues, and soon will teach Pen, Paper & Murder, which studies great works of fiction and nonfiction that were inspired by famous murders, as well as the glamorizing of crimes in society.

In 2010, her first book, Halloween and Commemoration of the Dead, was published by Chelsea House Publisher. This book details how societies globally perceive death and the afterlife, as well as the funerary rites involved in that process.

Her next book, The Lady and Her Monsters, was published by William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins, in 2013. A work of nonfiction, it details Mary Shelley's writing Frankenstein, and the writers, poets, doctors, scientists, alchemists, and gravediggers who influenced her.

In the spring of 2015, The Wilderness of Ruin will also be published by William Morrow (Harper Collins). It is also a work of creative, historical nonfiction, and tells the story of a child-murderer, Jesse Pomeroy, who roamed the streets of Boston in the early 1870s. This case influenced the approach of mental issues, prison reform, juvenile delinquency trials, and literature, including the last work of Herman Melville. Montillo stumbled upon this story in the archives of the Harvard University Library where she found a file belonging to one of the detectives who worked on this case. This fascinating story is rarely told, and reflects the truth-seeking nature of Montillo's writing career.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lavers (in Canada) on February 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
On one hand, I found this book fascinating and it made me want to learn more about nineteenth-century London and the events that lead up to the writing of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. On the other hand, the reason this book made me want to do more research is that the research that went into this book is so poorly referenced.

Roseanne Montillo starts FAR too many sentences with "many believed" or "some have said" or "critics argued" without properly referencing WHO believed, WHO said, or WHO argued. This may not have been such a big oversight if so many of her claims weren't so fantastic. For instance, at one point she seems to suggest that the myth of the golem, a Jewish monster animated into human form, may have actually happened. I'm sure she doesn't really believe that...does she? She makes similar claims when talking about various experiments done by the "mad scientists" of the 19th century, those who tried to create or resurrect life with human body parts and electricity. While I understand her point that these experiments had a strong influence on Mary Shelley's writing, she sometimes presents the "success" of these experiments in ways that stretch credulity. And her footnotes--if you can call them that--are merely notes for further reading, broad suggestions about which books she used for which chapters, without giving specifics about sources, page numbers, etc. I know sometimes publishers ask that footnotes be cut for brevity, but these were actually longer than if she had just properly annotated her research. Plus, according to her acknowledgements, a lot of her "research" involved conversations she had with people before writing the book.

None of that makes it a bad book, per se.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Nancy E. Weltchek on February 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in one sitting. The writing is incredibly vivid and even beautiful in places. Ms. Montillo may be an academic -- the other reviewer, Richard Masloski, seems out of line and offensive when he suggests that she's not a professor when it clearly states on the book cover that she is -- but she writes like a great literary novelist. I knew the story of Mary Shelley's writing of Frankenstein, but the way she blends in the stories of the mad scientists who inspired Victor Frankenstein is absolutely brilliant. Anyone who is a fan of books like DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY or Laura Hillenbrand should run immediately to buy this book. It even reminded me a little bit of great literary historical fiction. The characters are that good and the story telling is page turning. I loved this book.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Meta Wagner on February 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book for anyone interested in the creation of one of the best-known characters in all of literature: Frankenstein. I love how the author weaves together the scientific and literary worlds of the early 1800s. And, it’s also wonderful to see Mary Shelley, who had to publish Frankenstein anonymously, take center stage rather than be known primarily for her other roles: the wife of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the daughter of two famous political philosophers. The book also doesn’t shy away from vivid descriptions of gory scientific experiments and fun gossip about the Shelleys’ literary friends, including the notorious womanizer Lord Byron. I see on the back cover that Publisher’s Weekly refers to this work as a “macabre romp…a delicious and enticing journey into the origins of a masterpiece” and that Booklist calls it “sick, shocking, and spellbinding.” I couldn’t say it better myself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Frank Paprota on March 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I found this book interesting and informative. However it did jump around quite a bit. The author is prone to digressions galore, some more welcomed than others. Despite its flaws I found it worth reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amateur Victorianist on July 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The topic of this book sounded very intriguing. Unfortunately, its discussion of the work done by early scientists is rather superficial. Also, as some other reviews have noted, the book is not very well written. It is disorganized, with the narrative jumping around in time, relating anecdotes as if they were related to each other but without proving actual connections. I stopped reading it halfway through.
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36 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Richard Masloski on February 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like Adam Johnson's eye-catching, fetching cover design for THE LADY AND HER MONSTERS. I don't so much care for the fact that the cover glows in the dark. It makes the book seem somewhat childish.

But wait a sec. Hold on. Actually, the book is childish. Extremely so. On the inside flap it boasts as much, by comparing the book to the "ghoulish fun" of a Tim Burton film. The trouble is, Tim Burton has produced many a turkey - and Roseanne Montillo's maiden book is not fun at all, ghoulish or otherwise. It is more frustrating than anything else. Ms. Montillo had a darn good notion for a book - but, alas, Victor Frankenstein had a nifty notion as well. But the execution of both Ms. Montillo's and Frankenstein's visions have ended in naught but disaster.

There are several things wrong with the book. Errors of fact riddle its pages. For example, on page 94 Ms. Montillo states quite clearly that - in Mary Shelley's novel - the creature is brought "to life by a force of electricity harnessed from the sky." Of course, Ms. Montillo must stress this scenario as her book deals in a very large part with the history of galvanism. Truthfully, however, in the novel it is never made clear how the Creature is infused with life. In the actual novel, Victor Frankenstein is as much an alchemist as a scientist. On page 201, in wondering why no contemporary reviewers realized that the anonymously published book was writ by a woman, Ms. Montillo states: "The story took place within a nine
month period, a typical gestation period for a pregnancy." Really? Nine months? The trouble is...the timeline of the story of FRANKENSTEIN spans years. Speaking of time, on page 251 our author states that in 1822 Mary Shelley was 27 years old.
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