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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
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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

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,087 ratings  ·  232 reviews
The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Motillo brings to life the fascinating times, startling science, and real-life horrors behind Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Montillo recounts how—at the intersection of the Romantic Age and the Industrial Revolution—Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein was inspired by actual scientists of the period: curious and daring
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by William Morrow (first published February 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  1,087 ratings  ·  232 reviews

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Start your review of The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece
Will Byrnes
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. (Chapter 5 – Frankenstein)
Roseanne Montillo has dug up information about diverse
Amy Sturgis
I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

This may sound odd, but I'm trying to work out why I enjoyed this as much as I did.

Those interested in Mary Shelley and the writing of Frankenstein would be better served looking elsewhere. (The Hooblers' The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein comes immediately to mind, but there are several other worthy treatments.) Roseanne Montillo gives an uneven glimpse into Shelley, exaggerating some aspects of her life
Jul 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was the perfect book to read near Halloween. I'm not one to pick up nonfiction books, but having written a paper on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ages ago, I was intrigued. This is everything you wanted to know about Mary and her times but was afraid to ask...and perhaps read. Not for the feint of heart, this book details the trend in anatomy dissections and experiments in bringing the dead back to life, using electricity.

Montillo does an amazing job of skirting around Mary and her own
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013, history
A muddled, meandering depiction of what could have been an incredibly fascinating topic. Sadly, very little ink is given to the actual writing of Frankenstein, instead most of the Mary Shelley parts of the book focus on the gordian relationships among her, her sister, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron. The sections on grave ribbing and anatomization are merely mediocre.
Dissections. Check.
Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins. Check.
Mary Shelley. Check.

But then the inside cover reads "Told with the verve and ghoulish fun of a Tim Burton film..." Meh. You started to lose me a bit there. Not that this was an awful read, because it certainly was not. But Tim Burton? Makes me think of Johnny Depp. And then I think about Johnny Depp and when does Johnny Depp make an appearance in this book? And then by the end (view spoiler)
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, but not for the faint of heart, nor those suffering from hypochondria, hysteria, insomnia, night terrors, twitching fits, laudanum addiction or fugue states; nor those who are convinced we are anything more than an offal-stuffed meat packet after we part the final curtain.

In the infinite catalog of crimes committed by man against man, the poor dead corpus has not been exempted. Montillo recounts (not quite with glee, but with plenty of gruesome detail) the galvanic experiments
Nicola Mansfield
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read being even more than I had expected. It is a biography of Mary Shelley but also contains detailed looks at the lives of many other people from a broad spectrum who were either related to Mary, influenced her or were a part of this period of interest in galvanic science and subsequently those who provided the corpses for the doctors to study and experiment on. Captivating, riveting and shocking reading at many times. I learnt of Mary's parents William Godwin, credited with the ...more
This would be a great October read! A fast-paced and entertaining look at Mary Shelley's inspirations for Frankenstein, including both her life with Shelley and Byron and the macabre world of grave-robbers in 19th century England and Scotland. (Some of the stolen corpses ended up being used in experiments meant to restore life to them.) I don't think it's necessary to be terribly familiar with Frankenstein to enjoy this one, though it does help...
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
In her darkly alluring tour of the grotesqueries of eighteenth and nineteenth century European popular and scientific culture, Roseanne Montillo accomplishes much in her exploration of “the frightful milieu in which Frankenstein was written.” The Lady and Her Monsters is a thrilling jaunt through a horrific yet fascinating history of grave robbing, alchemy, artistic scientists, scientific artists, and everything in between. Equal parts biography, travelogue and ethnography, Montillo’s book ...more
Homo sapiens
The book has a very interesting concept, that is why I bought it, but I don't think it lived up to it. There is no structure or coherence, facts are just thrown in there in a random order in my opinion. This was pretty annoying while reading obviously, but the biggest problem of this book is that it does not focus on Mary Shelley! And yes, the book states that it is BOTH for the era/science contemporary to Frankenstein AND Mary. The problem is that it is basically about the era/science of the ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’m being generous when I give this book 2 stars. For a book that was supposed to talk about Mary Shelley and the makings of Frankenstein, very little talked about it. This book has so much filler content in it you can tell that it was stretched to make some x paged deadline. of this book was dedicated to the medical community and its relation to cadavers. We would get the history for some person who worked for the medical community and then have some vague connection being implied to
Midu Hadi


Roseanne Montillo’s, The Lady & Her Monsters, Takes us Behind the Scenes & Plops us Down Right into Mary Shelley’s Life


Oh, what a sad life Mary Shelley led!

The book follows Mary’s life right from the moment of her birth and touches on every source of inspiration that led to the writing of Frankenstein.

The story would leave Mary for a while at some points and follow other people who were vital to the writing of the book. These deviations made for refreshing changes.


Mary's Dad


Mary's Mom

Bridget Mckinney
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
This might be my favorite book I've read so far in 2013.

Roseanne Montillo delivers a ton of information in The Lady and Her Monsters about alchemists, anatomists, doctors, galvanism, grave robbers, murderers, poets, and Mary Shelley. It's a history of Frankenstein, but it also can be read more broadly as a history of science and science fiction and how the events of the 18th and 19th centuries led to the development of ideas that are still being written about by science fiction authors today.

Sep 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia because I was intrigued about what might have spurred the creation of Mary Shelley's most famous work. The book sets a marvelous scene of what it was to live in Shelley's time period: the scientific potential of 'Galvanism' and its seeming ability to potentially 'raise the dead,' as the people of the time believed that the contractions of muscles of corpses in response to stimulation, especially frogs, was reanimating them through a ...more
Althea Wynne-Davis
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It takes about 75 pages before Montillo gets to Mary Shelley; however, it is an electrifying 75 pages which describes the environment which bred Shelley's masterpiece. Scientific experiments by Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta in trying to re-animate dead frogs, then dead human body parts with electricity. The thriving black market for resurrection men to supply surgeons with dead bodies for dissections - a macabre profession involving grave robbing, public hangings, and profit-minded serial ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I won The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo from Booktrib , a website that was originally solely devoted to book giveaways, but now also has chats with authors and reviews.

I've always had a fascination with the contest among Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Dr. Polidori whose most enduring literary result was Frankenstein. So I was delighted that I won it.

The background of Frankenstein is scientific as well as literary. I am largely familiar with the literary aspects. I learned
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Quite a fascinating book about the background to the creation of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley in keeping with modern parlance was very "aware". Although not a trend setter in that other writers after her emulated her story line. None have. Her book as many of us know did start something much bigger than a following of other writers. Frankenstein became in its way its own culture.
There just a few missing aspects in this book. One being the surprising lack of the follow up to the parentage of the
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Steven Ramirez
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
You can’t make this stuff up. Galvanism, resurrectionists, anatomists, fey English poets going out of their minds on laudanum and prancing about Italy and Switzerland. Not to mention the weather! It’s the stuff of H. P. Lovecraft and Mel Brooks. Seriously, it’s a wonder anyone kept their sanity. Add to that a soap opera plot that defies logic, and you have ‘The Lady and Her Monsters.’ What a book! And what a cast of characters—Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori, and so many others wrapped ...more
Maura Heaphy Dutton
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebooks-cloud
This is a terrible, terrible book. It's a testimony to the fascination of the subject matter, and to the obvious passion of the author, that it's surprisingly readable, in spite of dodgy writing, poor understanding of the history and culture of the time, and the poor organization of its ideas.

Let's start with the positive things: I learned something! I learned about early experiments in electricity, in human anatomy, and the pre-Frankenstein lives of Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and their
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book DOES get better and less dry as it goes on. Many of the early chapters focus heavily on male scientists and doctors, which I found strange considering the title of the book.

If you're familiar with the life of Mary Shelley (or if you've read her Wikipedia article at length), most of the information here won't be new to you. It's a good read if you're hoping for a bit of a fleshed out look into the other things happening around Shelley during this time period.
Emily Woodbeck
This book weaves together a number of my more offbeat interests in a way that consumed me like no other book has in a while. A perfect mixture of literary biography and macabre scientific history, all blended into a tale that includes body snatchers, galvanism, romantic scandals, and Lord Byron. A picture of an artist who was ahead of her time, while completely a product of it.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting work that puts the novel in the context of contemporary galvinism and grave robbing while also recounting the events in the Shelleys' lives that led to, created, and followed Frankenstein. If you are fascinated by the Romantic era and the Shelley/Byron relationship, you will enjoy this book.
Sugarpuss O'Shea
**3.5 Stars**

This book contains some truly fascinating information. Unfortunately, just when you delved into one aspect of the book, the rug was pulled out from under you & off you went on a different tangent, sometimes never to return or know why the information was presented in the first place.

I really wish this book was broken into two parts: Part 1: The background information into the science, resurrectionists, and crimes that were scattered throughout this book, and; Part 2: The
This was a very scattered book. An interesting one, sure, and a well-researched one, but not very focused. It bit off much more than it needed to chew. The root of the book is the study of Mary Shelley and her motivations when writing Frankenstein, but I don't think this book pulled many conclusions that a second-year literature student could not do with a few primary sources and a good Norton edition of the book.

The narrative follows two paths--a scientific one and a personal one. The science
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Read more of my reviews on my blog:

Finally a book that is everything it claims to be! "The Lady And Her Monsters" a perfect blend of dissection, real life Frankensteins, and Mary Shelley's life. My affinity for Mary Shelley began when I read "Frankenstein" during a college English class, which was further strengthened by the fact that we have the same birthday, albeit over 200 years apart. Over the years, I've enjoyed how the classic horror story of
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was about a third of the way through Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science when I happened to see this little book at my favorite shop yesterday. I am a slow reader, but managed this in a single day.

I agree with other reviewers that there are some weak areas, especially in the alchemists chapter -- it seemed almost like the editor forgot that one. (There are sentence errors that are confusing, misplaced words, that did not
Morgan Eckstein
This book is a delightful dance between the history of medicine and the development of one of the best known classics of Gothic and horror fiction, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and how science informed the writing of a literary classic.

For a long time I have wondered about the extent that the body snatchers (such as Burke and Hare), and the doctors that they supplied bodies for, influenced what Mary Shelley wrote. While I would have liked to explore such things while I was in college, the
Jessica Andersen
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I really enjoyed this book. I have been a fan of Frankenstein for a long time. My first exposure to the story was through the View Finder, my Grandpa had a Frankenstein story on those little disks. Then I saw Young Frankenstein,and in high school I finally read Mary Shelley's actual book.

This book tells the story of the influences on Mary Shelley when she wrote the book. It is part biography of Mary Shelley and part history of "mad science." The Lady and Her Monsters tells the story of
Thomas Edmund
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I guess somewhat consistent with the lengthy subtitle, when reading The Lady and her Monsters I found it difficult to discern the main theme. Was this a biography of Mary Shelley, a dissection of dissection, or a review of the novel Frankenstein's Monster itself?

The content is enjoyable nonetheless, I think the historic review of cadaver-snatching, galvanic experiments and society at that time's general view of morbid topics was the strongest thread. Focus on the actual novel was altogether too
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Roseanne Montillo is the author of two other works of nonfiction, The Lady and her Monsters and The Wilderness of Ruin. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, where she taught courses on the intersection of literature and history. She lives outside of Boston.