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The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein Hardcover – May 22, 2006

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.

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (May 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316000787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316000789
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #949,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By avidreader on June 8, 2006
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. O'Toole on March 7, 2007
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on December 18, 2006
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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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Levi Morton on May 27, 2006
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dawn as Cattle Capers(tm) on May 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book focuses on the life of Mary Shelley, which was tragic. It appears to be well-researched (I don't know enough to contradict any of their conclusions) and was very interesting, one of my nightly "just before I go to sleep" reads. There is plenty of detail about the lives of Mary's parents, her family, her very famous husband, Percy, and other historical individuals, most notably Lord Byron. But the authors keep the pace moving and do not get bogged down in dull details.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the authors freely gave their opinion on Mary and the people in her life, making the biography more accessible and less a dry textbook. There is some very interesting (and spooky) details about Percy's early death and Mary's bizarre reaction to it. They also attempt to dispel the lurid falsehoods told by Lord Byron's enemies and paint a portrait of the true man, one of Europe's first celebrity idols. He was still a bad character, and I cannot help but wonder how Mary's personal life would have improved if she and Percy had never met the man; however, would Frankenstein been written and Percy become a belated star?

I came away from the novel with a deep sense of pathos about Mary and a new sense of her greatness in literary history. In a way, Mary's life was a Gothic horror story, full of real life monstrous individuals.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C Wahlman VINE VOICE on September 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Monsters is a fascinating read about some of the most fascinating literary figures of the 18th and 19th century. It even has sections of pictures to better understand what these people looked like (which is important, especially for Byron).

The book is far more than just the creation of the literary masterpiece Frankenstein. It spans the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: from her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and A Vindication of the Rights of Men), and her father, William Goodwin, until her end. The book details the biographies of major Romantic literary figures, such as Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and even includes the mention of Thomas Love Peacock, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and others.

I found the material dense and the pace a little slow at times. Someone interested in the topic will have their appetite for scandal and genius satiated with this work; although I would caution the more general reader. Having known the bare minimum of this era of literature, I found the background information to be enlightening, and quickly brought me up to speed with the history and people. Recommended
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