Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Nature of Monsters” as Want to Read:
The Nature of Monsters
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Nature of Monsters

3.15  ·  Rating Details ·  1,469 Ratings  ·  252 Reviews
1666: The Great Fire of London sweeps through the streets and a heavily pregnant woman flees the flames. A few months later she gives birth to a child disfigured by a red birthmark.

1718: Sixteen-year-old Eliza Tally sees the gleaming dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral rising above a rebuilt city. She arrives as an apothecary’s maid, a position hastily arranged to shield the fat
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 7th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈

C is for Clark

Read a book set in a different country.
3.5 stars

This book really really was a doozy. When I first began reading, I thought for sure it would be a 2 star, or possibly a low 3. I actually contemplated giving this one a 4, but the slow beginning made me round down. This is a fascinating, but at times very dry, piece of historical fiction that delves into the dark space that exists between medicine and science and mythology and superstition that existed in Europe in the 17th and 18th c
May 22, 2008 Krysten rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Absolutely no one.
The exact words that came out of my mouth after reading this were “Well, that was a waste” as I put the book down, dismayed at what it was I just read. Believe me, the description on the back cover was a much better read then the actual book itself. It seemed at first that this could be an interesting concept, something intriguing. A young girl finds herself pregnant and later forced under the subjugation of a mad scientist during 18th century England. What’s not to like, right? Well, from the m ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I am definitely guilty of wanting to read a book simply because I love the cover, though I do take into consideration the plot as well. But here we have a dark, gothic novel set in the early 1700s, more twisted and mad than Mr Rochester's crazy wife, complete with resourceful heroine and beastly experiments done in the name of science and medicine, set against the stinking refuse, pollution, grime and decay of London, as well as the political and religious freedoms, traditional superstitions and ...more
Nov 18, 2007 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like body functions
This is what happens when you have a babysitter, and can browse your local book store without your wee one tugging at your skirts begging for the latest Sandra Boyton book.

Do not be fooled by the well written dust jacket description of this book, for it is a far better read than the book itself. It seemed so intriguing: a book set in early 18th century London. A girl finds herself pregnant, and at the mercy of a mad scientist. You would think, what a good read.


This is why you should never
Sep 11, 2008 Juushika rated it liked it
Shelves: status-borrowed
In 1718 England, sixteen-year-old Eliza is recently married, but when she conceives her husband renounces her. She is sent to London to work for an apothecary, Mr. Black, that she believes will rid her of her burden--but Black has other plans. He is writing a treatise on the effect of female imagination on unborn children, and he intends pregnant Eliza to be his first case study. Taking place deep within the dark and dirty underbelly of 18th Century London, The Nature of Monsters is almost so gr ...more
Aug 05, 2008 Terence rated it really liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Shannon
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bark's Book Nonsense
Mar 04, 2010 Bark's Book Nonsense rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Book ring book for . I had forgotten all about this one. Must read and send on before Apr 4.

Set in the 1700’s. The book starts out with a woman fleeing from a devastating fire. Then it jumps ahead 50 or so years and we meet Eliza who is a young woman all worked up over a sexy young man. The opening scene was something akin to an erotica novel but you won’t hear me complain. Eliza’s mother is the local midwife but fears being accused of witchcraft and wants to have her daughter
Nov 14, 2011 Noelle rated it liked it
Atmospheric and darkly suspenseful, Clare Clark’s The Nature of Monsters is a tale in the vein of gothic horror that is as unsettlingly cruel and captivatingly vivid. Essentially a straightforward, plot-driven historical novel wrapped in the macabre nuances of early English medical practices, Clark illustrates the monstrous acts of true evil and those who dwell in it. Her characters are strongly represented and despite her almost unbearable subject matter, where the lines between quackery and sc ...more
May 21, 2009 sylvie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel presents the 18th century in it's full reality. London is a rough, dirty, dangerous town. The divide between rich and poor is well defined and unbreachable. Poverty is prevalent, vulgarity in all it's forms the norm. Clare Clarke doesn't hide behind graceful descriptions, the author gives us a real feel and chills in her writing, London once was a terrifying city to dwell in. It is surprising people survived to adult age, murders, disease and filth where everywhere.
This novel addresse
Jul 24, 2009 Sherry rated it liked it
When I started this book, I almost put it down on page one! It started out with a very graphic description; not salacious, but coarse and rough. I just couldn't imagine reading an entire book with this type of language, but I pressed on, skimming some of the coarser descriptions. I'm glad I did.

The Nature of Monsters is told by Eliza Tally, a coarse (hence the language), headstrong young woman living in England in the early 1700's. The question you consider throughout the book is what really ma
Flora Smith
Jan 28, 2011 Flora Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fictin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 16, 2008 Rachel rated it did not like it
The story opened with a pregnant woman escaping the great fire of London. The piece was well-written and interesting both in story and characterization. But then the book switches to fifty years later, where we are immersed in the explicit lustings of a sixteen year old farm girl for a gentleman who her mother is trying to ‘capture’ via pregnancy (it works). The problem is that it was too explicit for me and once past all that, not all that interesting.

So I started skimming. And I kept skimming.
Martina Ovens
Sep 28, 2012 Martina Ovens rated it really liked it

I read the comments of other Goodreads followers only after I had got about halfway through the book, some I agree with, others, I can see their point of view as I don't enjoy everything that I read either! This book fell into the very enjoyable category which surprised me as it is totally out if my normal reading genre.
London during the rebuilding after the great fire must have been a dreadful place to live if one was of lower class. In this story, servants are treated as belongings and women
Jan 04, 2014 Becca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think a lot of the current reviews are unnecessarily harsh.
This book doesn't make for the easiest of reading, but this coupled with the short chapters, broken up nicely with correspondence to and from the other characters, balance out nicely.
I enjoyed the book in its entirety. on some occasions I admit I skipped a line or two when the descriptions were 'a bit much', but other than that I enjoyed it!
I liked the main character Eliza, at last a heroine that doesn't devote her entire existence t
Oct 21, 2007 Sandy rated it liked it
Loved the imagery in this book set in the 1700s. I grew to really like Eliza, the narrator of the book, who goes from being a naive young girl and a pawn in her mother's schemes to a woman who pushed her way to freedom in a time when women did not have as many options. The story underlying this journey was interesting and suspenseful despite the monotony of her life in the apothecary's home, and I kept turning the pages despite myself (and the time of day). :o)
Jul 25, 2008 Janice rated it really liked it
Dark and mysterious, and very Dickensian - which makes it weird that I liked it because I really loathe Dickens.

Does an excellent job of absorbing the reader in London in the early 1700's. I felt absorbed in the world - the writing was incredibly evocative. Think I will pick up Clark's first novel since I enjoyed this one so much.

Dec 02, 2008 Laura rated it it was ok
I just kept wondering when this book was going to get interesting. When was she going to get out....what happened to her many questions. I felt like the main character was one person in the beginning and totally another at the end....but not in a good way...just in one that did not make sense. I have to admit I was drawn to the book by the cover and the time period.
Julie Newton
Aug 06, 2008 Julie Newton rated it it was amazing
VERY descriptive!! London was so real. I'm hosting my book club Halloween night - discussing WHO is really a monster!!!
Mar 12, 2008 Cathy rated it it was ok
Recommended to Cathy by: NY Times
It's an interesting idea but not a great story. The author's note on London of the early 1700's at the end of the book was much better than the book itself.
Sep 17, 2012 Carolyne rated it it was ok
this book was good though it was very repeditative
Jess Thurlow
Jan 27, 2017 Jess Thurlow rated it it was ok
I thought this book was going to be different. When I read the book jacket I thought it was going to be like this movie about the servant who worked for Dr. Jekyll - but I was very wrong. To be honest the book could have been 100-150 shorter. I felt like it dragged on- It was a quick- but ok book. I will not read it again.
Betty Strohecker
As the Great Fire of London rages in 1666, a pregnant woman barely escapes death and gives birth a few months later to a child disfigured with a heavy portwine birthmark on one side of his face. Fast forward to 1718, and Eliza Tally finds herself pregnant after marrying the son of a wealthy Newcastle merchant in a country ritual of jumping over the broom performed by her midwife mother, widow of a local curate. Since the young man never told his father of the ceremony, he refuses to acknowledge ...more
May 17, 2010 Dora rated it really liked it
Clare Clark's "The Nature of Monsters" is an odd little title. I suppose you could call it historical fiction, which is okay, or historical fictional horror, which is even better, but it's not quite that either. Following sixteen-year-old Eliza who is sent away to live in secret as a maid when she gets pregnant out of wedlock. Not that she's letting that get her down; she has every belief her beloved will eventually come for her. But as the days drag by without word, she finds herself having to ...more
I don’t normally abandon books. I have this irrational idea that if I start a book, then I must finish it, whether I am enjoying it or not. But occasionally I will come across one that I just can’t finish, and The Nature of Monsters was, unfortunately, one of those rare few.

The thing is, I can’t say definitively what I dislike about it. The story is set primarily in London in 1718 – a time and place that I normally enjoy reading about. The book centers around a 16-year-old girl named Eliza. She
Eliza Tally is young and as is most often the case, she thinks she is in love. But when the man she is supposedly married to dismisses their marriage as only a country ritual, her mother knows what will happen to a pregnant young girl and quickly works out a transaction with the man, sending Eliza to London to work for an apothecary. Since Eliza's mother is a cunning woman, she has seen the results of her mother's craft and assumes that the apothecary will expel the thing growing inside her and ...more
Samara White
Oct 02, 2014 Samara White rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 04, 2010 Renee rated it did not like it
Okay, maybe this is unfair... but, I could not bring myself to finish this book.

Frankly, it sucked!

It starts off with a very pointless, and disgusting I might add, smut scene in the very first chapter. I'm no prude - I have read my share of bodice rippers (Bertrice Small) and even some BDSM (Kushiel's Dart)... but still. This opening scene was so unnecessary and gross, as to completely turn me off the book. The way the characters lust was described was just nasty to me.

Then, and if you read ot
Jane McGaughey
Jun 19, 2012 Jane McGaughey rated it did not like it
It is a rare thing for me to dislike a book as much as I did this one; even rarer for me to finish it, but I felt I had to, if only to see if things improved. They didn't. This was simply not my cup of tea, and I don't believe that is Clare Clark's fault at all. I was seduced by the back-cover blurb which made it appear that the predominant portion of this novel took place during the Great Fire of 1666. That is a period in English - and particularly London - history which I adore. I'm all about ...more
Sep 07, 2012 Karyl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookstore-finds, 2012
In eighteenth century England, much of science was still in its infancy, as evidenced by the central theme of this book, that whatever a mother experiences while pregnant will somehow imprint itself on the baby inside her. It is these maternal experiences that are the cause of various congenital deformities, according to the knowledge of the day, and the study of these impressions is what the apothecary of the novel, a Mr Black, has devoted his life to studying. In his quest for knowledge, he ex ...more
Nicolle Cornute-Sutton
Sep 01, 2008 Nicolle Cornute-Sutton rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anglophiles
I would have given it a two but added on the extra star for the amount of work the author put into researching the book's historical setting and attention to detail.

"The Nature of Monsters" tells the story of Eliza Tally, who by her own admission, is entirely self absorbed and incapable of thinking of anyone or anything save herself and her own pleasure. She's a difficult person to like or empathize with, even after she finds herself pregnant and alone, sent to live at the bleak home of a disfig
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Hard to get into, but good 3 26 Mar 11, 2013 09:51AM  
  • Confinement
  • The Notorious Mrs. Winston
  • The Journal of Dora Damage
  • A Stolen Tongue
  • London in Chains: An English Civil War Novel (English Civil War, #1)
  • The Fiend in Human
  • The Serpent in the Garden
  • The Vizard Mask
  • Dandelions in the Garden (Countess Elizabeth Bathory, #1)
  • الشرارة؛ انتفاضات في البلدان العربية ويليها بالنار
  • An Inconvenient Wife
  • Angelica
  • Walking In Pimlico
  • Bluebird, or The Invention of Happiness
  • The Gilded Lily
  • Hunger’s Brides: A Novel of the Baroque
  • The Glass of Time (The Meaning of Night, #2)
  • The Sensualist: An Illustrated Novel
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

CLARE CLARK is the author of The Great Stink, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and The Nature of Monsters.
More about Clare Clark...

Share This Book