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

3.6 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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"Julian Fellowes's Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes
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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 (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This reads like a college research paper, complete with unanswered questions, sweeping generalizations, large swathes of quoted material, and the lack of transition between ideas (or facts.) There are some interesting sections, but it becomes tedious with the constant descriptions of dissections and graphic science experiments. Even within chapters Montillo jumps between presumed connections she using information far removed from the original topic. It is not that it is poorly written so much as it is poorly structured and edited. If you are interested in connections between Galvinism, alchemists, anatomists, and various history of medical science that uses the story of Frankenstein as a way to talk about these things this is the book for you. If you are looking for insight into Mary Shelley's life and writing you might want to look for another book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Roseanne Montillo has written another interesting biography that provides insight into the short tragic life of Mary Shelley. While not quite as good as her work about Jesse Pomeroy (believed to be America's youngest serial killer), the tale is sad and full of unfulfilled dreams in its attempt to capture the feel of the period and the potential for greatness never fully recognized, not only in Mary but also her husband and their friends like Lord Byron. Mary's creation of her masterpiece "Frankenstein" is discussed in some detail, but not the real legacy and impact she made for women in literary circles. Some still believe her husband to be the author because they don't want to have to admit a woman capable of such insight during that period. If possible I would actually have given the book four and a half stars instead of just four. I recommend it highly.
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