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The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece Hardcover – Deckle Edge


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #554,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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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Customer Reviews

I read this book in one sitting.
Nancy E. Weltchek
There were times where I nearly fell asleep reading this book and I really wouldn't recommend this one for pleasure because it isn't too interesting.
Scott Reads It
The book is based on Mary Shelley author of the original "Frankenstein" and what a story it is.
April Reynolds

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lavers 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. It's just not a history book.
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16 of 19 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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11 of 14 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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2 of 2 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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2 of 2 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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By April Reynolds on April 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
NEVER base a book by it's cover....This was an excellent read. Ive been putting it off just reading a lil at a time because I did not know what i was getting into. I began reading this book thinking it was just another book on true horror WOW was I wrong. The book is based on Mary Shelley author of the original "Frankenstein" and what a story it is. It starts at the beginning and goes to her death. most books dont do this. The author Roseanne Montillo goes into deep realizations of what Mrs. Shelley's life really was and the true story about how things were in her day. The emotions brought through her writing seem so true to what a poet really is and how poets from long ago cross generations and still reach into our world today. I truly loved this read. It is a must read for anyone that likes reading about the past, poets, surgeons, scientists etc..

Won on Good read but is one of my best reads so far!!!!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Colin Quentin on March 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Captivating nonfiction. Though the story is told through various threads, they all come together to paint a stunning portrait of a time when science was more primitive and love more romantic. That romance of course includes all of the lurid scandal and tragedy we see splashed across tabloids today--but in Mary and Percy Shelley's time it was all so much more haunting and poetic...not to mention more fun to read about! Montillo tells this familiar story in the context of a world that's much bigger and yet more gruesome than the Shelleys' microcosm, introducing a cast of little known scoundrels and fanatics who through obsessive dedication to science and superstition, indirectly inspired Mary to write her masterpiece. With so many fascinating pieces of history and folklore scattered throughout its pages, this Gothic horror fantasia is a challenge to put down.
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