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The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein Paperback – August 20, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this absorbing biography, the Hooblers, historians and children's authors (The American Family Albums), chronicle the turbulent life of Mary Shelley (1797–1851), author of the classic gothic novel, Frankenstein. They open with a moving sketch of the life of her famous mother, feminist rebel writer Mary Wollstonecraft, who died 11 days after giving birth to Mary. Sixteen-year-old Mary eloped to France, in 1814, with the freethinking Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Effectively surrounded by egotistical and rapacious "monsters" such as Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, a new mother at 19, penned the tale of Frankenstein in response to a challenge set by Byron to guests at his Swiss villa. The Hooblers amply relate how the themes of Mary Shelley's masterpiece correspond to her life. Portraying Mary Shelley's stoic endurance of trauma and loss— two of her children died early—the Hooblers describe her final misery when Percy Shelley drowned while she was still in her early 20s. Summarizing Mary's other novels and recounting how she championed Shelley's posthumous literary reputation while raising her remaining son to conventional manhood, the Hooblers' well-crafted biography will appeal to all who wish to learn more about the conception of Frankenstein and its enigmatic author. 8 pages of b&w photos. (May 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein, is one of the best-known books in history, but many do not know that the lives of its author and those around her were equally as dramatic and tragic as those of the characters in her tale. Mary was the daughter of two famous radical authors, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who died just 11 days after giving birth to Mary. At only 16, Mary eloped with the charismatic and eccentric Percy Shelley, who was besotted with Mary but already wed to another woman, by whom he had two children. Mary and Percy brought Mary's stepsister, Claire Claremont, with them, and she not only had an affair with Percy but also pursued Lord Byron, a poet as famous for his stunning good looks as for his verse. This group, along with Byron's emotionally fragile physician, John Polidori, gathered together for a summer in Switzerland, where a challenge Byron threw out inspired Mary to write Frankenstein. Though the novel went on to meet with great success, the lives of all the authors would be touched by great tragedy in the following years. The lives of the writers were every bit as exciting as those of the characters they created, and the Hooblers recount the ups and downs in the lives of these Romantic-era geniuses with thrilling, intense prose. As exciting and fast paced as a good novel, this book is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in literary genius and the lives of people gifted with it. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (August 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316066400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316066402
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The authors did a fantastic job assembling the fascinating lives of Mary Shelley, Percy, and Lord Byron. After reading Frankenstein, I could not believe such a young woman had written the story, and wanted to know more about the author.

This book answers the question of how a young woman could develop and write such a story. Her life story and the people that surround her make for a very interesting read. I was shocked and surprised by many facts throughout this work. For a non fiction book, it was a real page turner and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I was curious as to the origins of "Frankenstein" and walked away with a desire to learn a lot more about the central figures. The authors do an excellent job of recalling the life of Mary Shelley (which was tragic) and the rest of the group that met that "dark and stormy night" in 1816 to tell ghost stories.
Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and John Polidori were all figures I knew marginally but the Hooblers have made them live in the pages of this wonderfully diverse study. They were fascinating people.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly. There are very few biographies as engaging as "The Monsters". Anyone with an interest in literature, monsters or just interesting people will enjoy this book.
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Format: Hardcover
The Monsters by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler is a fascinating read about the creation of the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The book traces Mary's family tree as well as the other members of the Diodati circle in a way that gives a great deal of insight into their characters. Both Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron come off as the foolish geniuses they were. The authors spend a great deal of time sorting out the two men's various affairs, but apparently that's what they had to do as well! The real victim of these men and their foibles were their children. Percy and Mary lost four of their five children before the age of four. And Byron's abandonment of his daughter seems especially tragic as she died not long after. The Hooblers do a terrific job of analyzing Frankenstein in a way relevant for our time as well as Mary's, and they see parallels between Percy, William Godwin (Mary's father) and Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The insightful writing gives the reader extreme sympathy for Mary. She identified with the monster in her book because it had been rejected by its father figure, much as Mary was not only by her father, but also by her mentor Percy. The monsters in this book are not the kind of nightmares; they are the monster from Mary's famous book. Every one of them felt alone and cut off from the world, just like the monster. It's a universal human feeling, which is why Frankenstein has resonated through the years more strongly that Shelley's or Byron's poems, and the young woman who was ignored by the poets has outshone them finally.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was a little worried when I bought this book, which had been recommended by a friend, that the writers might delve into the more salacious aspects of these writers/poets...and there was a good lot of room for that with Byron being a factor, but it was very factually presented. It's fascinating to see the buildup to the narrative of Frankenstein. The authors did an excellent job of weaving together the history to show how Mary's creation evolved. Her parents and her relationship with them. Her many losses of children. Her relationship with others. They did a really thorough platform for the influence of her life in Frankenstein.

I'm not a scholar so I can't speak to its historical authenticity, but I was convinced by this...and I'd love to see similar books that delve into the "why" and "how" great classic literature came to be.

While I highlighted a ton of this book, I thought this was one of the more interesting quotes:

Victor Frankenstein realizes that the creature is his doppelgänger--an insight that seems to have extended to readers and audiences, for today the name "Frankenstein" is popularly applied not only to the creator, but to the monster, who is never named in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
The title and first review may give the false impression that the Hooblers argue that those who were with Mary Shelley at Lake Geneva were literally, supernaturally cursed. This is not so; the term "cursed" is used here and there, but the authors are quite secular and provide plenty of all-natural reasons why those who lived fast died young.

Rather, the Hooblers argue that Frankenstein was rather more a reflection of Mary Shelley's tumultuous parentage, upbringing and life than even she may have realized, and they make a good case for that.

The book starts off slowly, but by the time it begins to chronicle Mary Shelley's life for the period before and after Lake Geneva, it settles into a smooth, informative narrative which truly gives a sense of how frantic these young lives were.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shelley and Byron, in this case, are the "Sheldons," and a personally unlovable pair they prove to be. Genius creates art of deathless beauty, but sometimes these folks are so brilliant that the rest of us appear to them like groping bugs, easily squashed if convenient. Byron & Shelley were a pair of invincible artists, but their personal lives were a shambles. This book was a fascinating description of the dark summer which gave us both Frankenstein and The Vampire. The backstory on this group of artists was as griping as the main story, but the the interpersonal dynamics of this famous houseparty wouldn't be out of place on day time t.v. These artists lived on the edge, testing/breaking every societal limit. Both Byron and Shelley died young, blissfully unscathed. Mary Shelley, like many other intelligent survivors of such a wild scene, was the one who rehabilitated her husband's reputation, glossing over real events so that her husband's work could be found acceptable reading for the sanctimonious late Victorians. Unfortunately, Mary was also left as the person who had to endure the social opprobium.

(I'm following this with a long over-due reading of "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" written by Mary Shelley's "infamous" and utterly brilliant mother.)
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