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A Monster's Notes

2.93  ·  Rating details ·  185 ratings  ·  61 reviews
What if Mary Shelley had not invented Frankenstein’s monster but had met him when she was a girl of eight, sitting by her mother’s grave, and he came to her unbidden? What if their secret bond left her forever changed, obsessed with the strange being whom she had discovered at a time of need? What if he were still alive in the twenty-first century?

This bold, genre-defying
Hardcover, 530 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2009)
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Average rating 2.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  185 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Wow. I blazed through this (twelve hours or so, from the preface to the source notes on page 521, with some down time for watching a movie). This reimagining of Mary Shelley's life and the Frankenstein story was a brilliant idea--albeit a bit clumsy in execution. What I found particularly intriguing was the emphasis upon Cao Xueqin's classic "Dream of the Red Chamber", a story that constitutes a significant section of the disjointed story. This amplifies my desire to read my [ultra-abridged:] tr ...more
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautiful. Stunning use of language gives an amazingly unique work of fiction a certain feel of poetry. The writing, the use of language gives off a palpable sense of sadness, not in the actual events of the plot, but in the way the characters speak. There is a certain sad, tragic beauty in it.

It's understandable, the words of a monster such as this would be sad and mournful, he was built from dead, discarded parts, abandoned, and seemingly unable to die. From the first paragraph, the monster's
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sue Smith
Dec 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
Well - that was a complete waste of time and effort. The best part of this book was the cover - which oh so seduced me with it's suggestion of 'the eye of the soul' and 'an unfinished person' and 'a piece of the whole'...and on and on. I couldn't wait to read this book. What a complete disappointment. By the time I realized that it wasn't going to get any better, I'd already invested too much reading to just quit it. Lordy - the pain to finish it. Nearly did me in.

So what was this book about? Wh
Aug 16, 2009 marked it as abandon_ship
I grabbed this from the library at the last minute because I LOVED the title and cover art, and the copy on the flap sounded fantastic! The premise is that Frankenstein's experiment actually came to life and met Mary Shelley when she was a young girl, inspiring her to write "Frankenstein" as an adult. The monster is real and kept a diary. Sounds great, right?

Had I thumbed through a few pages first, I would have discovered that this was not going to be a pleasurable read for me. It is formatted
Jun 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
I did not find this to be a pleasurable read. For all the lovely language and meticulous research, I'm sorry to say that this beast of a book doesn't have much meat.

The reader is continuously and ferociously pounded by same themes. Each section has it's own emotional/philosophical focus and specific imagery which is repeated to the point of inciting eye-rolling and even page skipping. I believe a drastic paring down the the length of this volume could have made it something more meaningful. 520
Jun 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
I actually quit reading this about half-an-hour in. I was exepcting a re-telling of the classic Frankenstein story, instead the book is a mish-mash of random thoughts categorized by topic. I found it difficult to follow and understand.
Jan 07, 2010 rated it did not like it
i got 100 pages into this book before I could take it no more. It is almost like reading someone's grocery list.
Laura J. W.
As a lover of books, it is rare that I read one I don't like, I court books before I immerse myself into them...I know what I like. It is my pet-peeve to be a bit skeptical of books that 'take off' from another author's work or playing fast n' loose with the life story of someone real makes me rarely works for me because when I have gone into one, I'm so dang nit-picky that I'd waste more time finding fault with it at every turn of the page because if it happens to be a story that I ...more
Matthew Hittinger
Jun 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I finally finished after savoring this over the past month. So much to say, collecting my thoughts which seems the appropriate thing to do for a book where the word "mind" appears at least once on almost every page.

It's a brilliant and rewarding book for those with patience and those who like a good challenge. The writing style will take some adapting to: between the Monster's note-taking, how he juxtaposes quotes, notes and snippets of his autobiography and the epistolary mode which presents th
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: europa
for !oulipo! fans. very creative fonts, addendas and has the whole gang too, little franky, mary, percy, clair claremont, ol doc victor, and MORE. neat idea too, mary shelley meets frank when she was a little girl of 8, and then the story takes off. frank is the "narrator" and prolific writer on this odd, long, interesting novel.
here's a recipe for you, for what ails ya:

"PRESCRIPTION (from chapter 10)

Ginseng .2 oz
Atractylis (clay baked) .2 oz
Pachyma cocos .3 oz
Prepared Ti root .4 oz
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
An approach to a story that reflects reality. A mass of simultaneous events, connections, and time along which people careen more in control at some points than others.
The hybrid nature of the story is very effective providing an almost kaleidoscopic perspective that allows for multiple voices to speak.
The choice of Mary Shelley whose own life often mirrored that of the gothic horrors she envisioned was perfect.

Reader Beware: if you want an easy read where the author does everything for you exc
Aug 09, 2009 rated it did not like it
I actually didn't finish this book. Couldn't really get into it.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Nov 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
This plodded. Hit you over the head with itself. Going to reread Frankenstein next to recover, more than likely.
Shana Carroll
Jan 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
This was the most convoluted attempt at a book I ever attempted to finish. It would make as much sense as printing out news and stealing random journals.
K. M.
May 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a book of prose poetry, not an actual novel. Not that genre-defying, honestly.
Lee (Rocky)
Sep 02, 2014 rated it liked it
When I began reading this, I knew nothing about this book other than a 3 sentence summary of the plot. As it turns out, to the extent that there is a plot, it is presented in a piece-meal, impressionist sort of way rather than any sort of straight forward narrative. As the title suggests, the book is composed of the monster's notes, not an actual story as such. Instead the book is made up of a series of notes expressing the monster's thoughts about various things, mixed with letters between vari ...more
LeeAnn Heringer
This book started with such promise for me. The opening section with fragments questioning humanity vs machines, the nature of machine intelligence, whether astronauts are still human once they are detached from Earth and then... *sigh* it moved into following the live stories of the original writer of Frankenstein, it moved into talking about the isolation of the Arctic, which was also interesting if less so. And then I hit the section of on the friend of Dr. Frankenstein now living in China ex ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Jul 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sept-oct-2009
"Comprised of letters, newspaper clippings, journal entries, interviews, dreams, lists, Web pages, and essays, Sheck's demanding, erudite novel eschews a cohesive plot in favor of the monster's growing comprehension of his plight -- an outsider looking in on humanity. Despite the obscure references to long-ago philosophers, poets, and novelists that left the Washington Post ""lurching along about 50 IQ points behind,"" critics were oddly moved by the beauty of Sheck's desolate vision and lyrical ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Almost done!

This book deeply explores the idea of being an outcast and being shunned by the world through the story of the fictional nameless creature created by Frankenstein and story of the real Mary Shelley. Sometimes the cerebral approach of writing this book in "notes" or inner monologues and the lack of dialogue can make the subject matter overwhelming. However the themes of desperation, loneliness and desire are deftly explored, giving real pause to the reader about human relationships a
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
I loved the concept of this book but simply couldn't get into it. I wanted more of the backstory. How did Mary and the monster meet, why did she write him as she did, why is he obsessed with Claire? Obviously, some of these questions would have been answered if I could force myself to continue turning the page, but...I couldn't.

Fascinating musings and notes taken in small doses but a bit much in novel format. Write a more traditional fiction narrative and I'd be all over it! (Oh jeez, did I real
Aug 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Written from the perspective of Frankenstein, these are his notebooks. The author Laurie Sheck is also a poet and this is a very lyrical novel. You could really open the book up at any point and find a really beautiful passage. This is what I did. I would never be able to read the book all the way through though. It's way too long and very reflective and philosophical. Not that I don't like reflective and philosophical - I do - just not long ones :) It's kind of like picking up Marcel Proust - b ...more
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm undecided as to how i feel about this book. It is obviously painstakingly researched and thought out. I like the idea that it proposes Frankenstein's monster met p with mary shelley when she was a little girl, b/c that's the kind of speculative shit i can get behind. And frankly, the whole Shelley entourage is fascinating. But the fragments... The lack of a strict narrative... The excessive existential philosophy... Ugh. Too postmodern for me, i'm having flashback to that insane class i took ...more
Enka-Candler Library
I confess, I skimmed this one a bit, but I still liked it. Hard to define, as it's a collection of writings and musings by "The Monster". It would be best if you knew a little about the history of Frankenstein and the life of Mary Shelley, otherwise it could be super confusing. The author has done a TON of research for this and it definitely shows. Lots of references to classical writings so it could be daunting to pretty much everyone.
Amy Smith
Sep 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
I was prepared to love this book, but it didn't happen. I thought it was going to be a novel about the friendship between Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the monster and how she betrayed him with her book, Frankenstein. It wasn't. It was a bunch of notes that the monster has made about this, that, and the other, over the past 100+ years. He's apparently still alive, since he googled at some point. And in all honesty, I didn't finish it, but skimmed thru most of it, trying to find the story.
Mar 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was intrigued by the premise of this book, especially because I've always liked Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and I enjoy reading stories from a different point of view. The dust jacket made this sound so promising! Alas, I made it 302 pages into this book and gave up. It's a relatively fast read since most pages aren't filled with text, but I just have too many other books on my shelf that I'd rather try instead.
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
I had such high hopes for this, after reading the description in EW, but I was disappointed. The third of the book that directly links the monster and Mary Shelley was everything I hoped, but the first 2/3 was rambling and only slightly interesting, even to someone as obsessed with the haunted summer as myself.
Liza Gilbert
Jul 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book was not to my tastes. The story of Frankenstein's monster, as revealed through the monster's own collection of notes, is a little too abstractly conceptual for me. Sheck seems want to stress the social responsibility that comes with creating a monster. To me, this is something better read in an ethics class than just for the sheer enjoyment of it.
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who consider themselves deep thinkers
This book was written by a woman who usually publishes as a poet. You will like it if you like rambling sentences and broken-off thoughts. There is no true story line or plot, just a bunch of thoughts interspersed with confusing, rambling letters. I didn't hate it and I read the entire thing but it was a relief to finally be done.
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