I was not particularly impressed by this book, but probably because when I read it I had already read a lot about the subject, in preparation for a lecture on Frankenstein that I was gave at the library. For me there was nothing really new, but it is an overall informative work, worth reading if you are interested in Mary Shelley and the cultural background of her "Frankenstein."
I did not find this book to be very useful for the classroom because the book seems to focus too much on the sensational publicized life of Mary Shelley and less on historical accounts that may have lent inspiration for the novel, Frankenstein. Chapter 8, The Anatomy Act, was, in contrast, what I was looking for. It gives a great historical account that reads like a magazine article and shows the fascination with using a condemned man's cadaver for anatomy lessons and experiments. It has some Clockwork Orange aspects to it. Very creepy and a couple of nice connections to other possible inspirations.
Montillo has crafted a beguiling and macabre work that brilliantly documents the origins of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to the extent when you forget you are actually reading non-fiction!
The precedents of scientific attempts at reanimation (possible through eerie experiments with electrical biology and bodysnatching) are presented alongside the intriguing (and surprisingly salacious) life stories of Mary Shelley and her contemporaries, husband Percy Shelley and friend Lord Byron. This was an age when the distinction between scientist and artist were blurred, when poets and philosophers frequently dabbled in the mysteries of the natural world. This book beautifully complements the dual nature of Shelley's masterpiece by eloquently presenting both the scientific and literary groundwork for its inception.
"When Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1818, the idea that the dead could be revived had been under investigation for at least half a century, as far back as Luigi Galvani's electrical experiments on dead frogs. Poet Percy Shelley was fascinated with the idea of immortality, and his wife Mary also became intrigued. The Shelleys belonged to an artistic and intellectual set that often went somewhat beyond the fringes of social acceptability - even to the point of scandal. The Lady and her Monsters paints a fascinating portrait of Mary Shelley and her writing in this volatile social and scientific context, bringing to life the background of Shelley's immortal novel." March 2013 Biography and Memoir newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=613005
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