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The Nature of Monsters Hardcover – May 7, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151012067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012060
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,833,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. British author Clark's second novel, a moving historical set in early 18th-century London, surpasses her acclaimed debut, The Great Stink (2005). When teenager Eliza Tally gets pregnant, her mother sells her into servitude to an apothecary, Grayson Black. Eliza struggles to survive in a bizarre household, unaware that her new master is interested in the effects of various emotions on her unborn child. Isolated save for a kindly, slow-witted fellow servant, Mary, Eliza develops an unlikely relationship with a French bookseller, Mr. Honfleur, who supplies Black with the scientific treatises he uses to inform his sadistic researches. Eliza hopes Honfleur will provide her with the means for escape. Unlike The Great Stink, this suspenseful tale contains no whodunit element, but as in her previous book, Clark's empathetic portrait of the powerless and the victimized will remind many readers of Dickens. Author tour. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Clark is a first-rate storyteller. The setting is 18th-century London, a dark and unwelcoming city of massive size. Eliza Tally, pregnant and unmarried, has been sent there by her mother to begin service as a maid for apothecary Grayson Black. His shop is managed by Mrs. Black, who holds an unyielding grip over all the affairs of the elusive man. Upon her arrival, Eliza meets Mary, the other servant, whom she finds annoying and bothersome at first. Eliza's new home sits in the shadow of the impressive landmark of St. Paul's Cathedral, and the young woman becomes readers' eyes and ears as she vividly conveys the sights and sounds of the city's bustling life. She is disturbed by the changes in her body as the baby within her grows. At the same time, she discovers that all is not right with the mysterious apothecary and his ever-vigilant wife. His interests in her and her condition make her increasingly uncomfortable as she perceives that she is somehow an unwitting party to his secrets, and she and Mary come to rely on one another for warmth and companionship. Ultimately, Eliza learns that monsters can take many forms, and that human behavior is oftentimes most fearsome. The novel's well-described setting and its well-realized themes of unplanned pregnancy and exploited female labor will engage teen readers.–Catherine Gilbride, Farifax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

CLARE CLARK is the author of The Great Stink, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and The Nature of Monsters. She lives in London.

Customer Reviews

I just don't have the patience for it apparently.
A Journey Through Pages
Maybe I should have stuck with the book longer, but the opening hundred pages just dragged on and on.
Stanley Hauer
Clare Clark does look at the human condition one hang nail at a time.
Sweater lover

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The year is 1718. Blinded by the excessive passion of first love, Eliza Tally finds herself pregnant at sixteen, her titled young seducer willing to pay to have the fallen girl placed in service to an apothecary in London. A calculating mother cosigns the bargain and Eliza is whisked to the domicile of her employer, Mr. Black, who hides his face under a black veil and performs questionable research to gain the attention of the London Royal Society. This is a desolate place, consisting of Grayson Black's office, the apothecary shop and the living quarters, ruthlessly attended by the severe Mrs. Black and an apothecary's assistant, Edgar Pettigrew. The only other resident is the mentally and physically defective servant, Mary. The nature of Black's experiments cloaked in secrecy, an oppressive gloom pervades every day of Eliza's service, the girl increasingly burdened by the hopelessness of her predicament.

For all his detachment, like some otherworldly Jekyll and Hyde, Black's intentions are unquestionably evil. The house is dark, shadowed, Eliza performing her chores as the baby grows within her, her fears exacerbated in this monstrous place, her only companion the dim-witted, disfigured Mary. Yet Mary is strangely kind, with her clumsy attempts to communicate. There is something unhealthy in this home, the sense of menace growing with the child in her belly. Trapped in a web of confusion, Eliza casts about for a means of escape, her natural instinct to survive her circumstances. As her original antipathy toward Mary morphs slowly into a grudging affection, Eliza realizes that there are more dangers afoot in Black's household, her innate intelligence whispering in her ear, "run".

What are Mr. Black's intentions? What will happen when her baby is born?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ms Clark did such a great job of depicting monsters and monstrous behaviour in this novel that it took me while to find redeeming qualities in any character. Except, of course, for Mary.

Set in early 18th century London, this novel focusses on aspects of life that are really confronting and uncomfortable. In many ways, this is an Hogarthian London - perhaps just around the corner from Gin Lane. It won't appeal to everyone but it should appeal to those who enjoyed Ms Clark's first novel 'The Great Stink'.

We meet both the best and worst of humanity in these pages but underpinning it all is the depiction of London herself.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Baking Enthusiast VINE VOICE on October 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
Clare Clark has to be one the bravest contemporary fiction writers around. Two years ago, she debuted with "The Great Stink" and if anyone thinks that was unsavory enough, Clark returns with "The Nature of Monsters," a gothic horror that will test your tolerance of the macabre with some of the coarsest, meanest, creepiest, most menacing people you can find in London of 1718.

This isn't the mannered tea-party London of Pygmalion's Eliza Doolittle. This is the filthy, horrid, revolting London of Eliza Tally. Jilted by a wealthy lover her money-hungry mother had baited, the impoverished and pregnant Eliza is sold to an apothecary, Grayson Black. She expects that Black will terminate the pregnancy in exchange for serving as maid in his household. But Black has other plans--he's a mad scientist whose use for Eliza goes beyond having his boots polished and his meals served.

Black is consumed by a treatise on "maternal impression," theorizing that a pregnant woman's experiences, when taken to extremes while with child, will determine the physiognomy of the infant. A mother who is terrorized will likely produce a deformed child. One who takes a fancy to animals will produce a freak of nature, half human, half beast. Black believes that the hideous port-wine birthmark that disfigured his face was the direct cause of his mother's terror during the Great London Fire of 1666.

The Black household is straight out of a horror flick. Mrs. Black is mean-spirited and just a tad less strange than her husband. Mary, the other maid, is mentally-challenged, with loathsome features and child-like behaviors. The demented and evil Black is a towering figure in black with a veiled hat that covers his marked face, terrorizing Eliza, Mary and tradespeople.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is without a doubt one of the most disturbing and horrifying things I have ever read. I don't mean in style or plot, but in subject matter and character. If you can't stand reading about evil beyond belief and the conceit of a man that believes himself allowed to do anything to further his glory, then stay away from this book. It gave me nightmares for weeks and I needed a month long break in the middle to allow me to finish it.

This is the story of Eliza, who is being paid by the wealthy parents of her unborn child's father to disappear to London to work as maid in an apothecary's household. But Eliza has no idea of the true nature of the mysteriously veiled Dr. Black's work, or the effect he is hoping it will have on her unborn child. But when the Eliza experiment fails and the master goes after Mary, the half witted maidservant next, Eliza knows they must escape and save the child now growing in Mary's belly.

The writing in this book is really very good and Eliza is a very well written character but (though I hate to judge a book on content alone) there are parts of this novel I wish I could erase from my mind. It's not horror novel horrifying, but more what man is capable of horrifying. In spite of the ending, reading this book was a trial for me and I can't say I recommend it (unless you are much less prone to fictional tragedy than me.)

Two stars
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