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Unfashioned Creatures

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  73 ratings  ·  7 reviews
Mary Shelley's real-life friend Isabella Baxter Booth is seeing ghosts and meeting mysterious strangers. To escape her increasingly violent, deranged husband and her own murderous impulses towards him, she flees London for her childhood home in Scotland. There she meets a young doctor, Alexander Balfour, who is at the vanguard of the emerging science of psychiatry. ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 7th 2013 by Saraband
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Average rating 3.08  · 
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 ·  73 ratings  ·  7 reviews

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Margret Fullded
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
It was not badly written, but I just did not engage with the story or the characters at all. Too much is explained, and I did not feel the tension as much as I would have liked to.
I felt there may have been too many unnecessary scenes in the plot that drove me away from the story (for example, I do not see any use for Mary Shelley to appear here)
But I liked the way the story is balanced on two point of views
Rosemarie Short
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I was initially intrigued most of all by the Gothic nature of this book. It's rare you see a novel written in the present, described in such a way in its blurb as would make Northanger Abbey's Catherine swoon with delight. It reminded me of a few previous reads, most notably Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. Therefore I hoped to find some of the tightly written psychological dysfunction here that I found in that novella.

For the most part I was not disappointed. There are many
David Kenvyn
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lesley McDowell has written a book, with great compassion, about the life of Isabella Baxter Booth, a friend of Mary Shelley, The central thrust of the story is how people, and especially the medical profession, at the start of the nineteenth century dealt with madness. It is a compelling story that does not flinch from describing the brutality of the treatments available. It also tells how ambitious doctors, like the fictional Dr Alexander Balfour, were looking for cures, partly for the benefit ...more
Dec 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I desperately wanted this book to enthral me. It had all the ingredients of a gripping gothic novel: insanity, ghosts, doubling, Machiavellian doctors, poets, scholars and the seething, brooding, atmospheric backdrop of London in the early 19th century.

I've read McDowell's 'Between the Sheets' and had high hopes. But this simply didn't do it for me. There was something awry. Was it trying too hard to be too clever? Was the deliberate ambiguity too ambiguous to give the tale any real cohesion?

Rania Ioannou
This was potentially a very interesting story but unfortunately I cannot say that its execution appealed to me. I found the novel overall too repetitive and I struggled to a great extent to stay focused.


Also, I found the main characters development a bit superficial - it might have skipped my attention but I could not understand how Isabella and Alexander's relationship came to develop in Montrose. It's really a shame because the subject of madness was really a good idea.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it liked it
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Lesley McDowell is an author and critic living in Scotland. She earned a PhD for work on James Joyce and feminist theory before turning to literary journalism. Her first novel "The Picnic" was published in 2007 and she is the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council award for a second novel, based on the life of a childhood friend of Mary Shelley. She reviews regularly for the Herald, the Scotsman and ...more