The Lady and Her Monsters
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
"A delicious and enticing journey into the origins of a masterpiece."
—Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"Her narrative… rattles enjoyably through a lurid and restless landscape. … Equally a literary and a scientific endeavor."
—Wall Street Journal
A captivating work of narrative nonfiction in the vein of The
Professor and the Madman and The Monster of Florence, Roseanne
Montillo’s The Lady and Her Monsters brings to life the fascinating
times, startling science, and real-life horrors behind Mary Shelley’s
gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein. Delving into a world that teeters
between superstition and medicine, between sanity and madness—where
fame-hungry scientists perform for rabid, wide-eyed audiences and
maniacal body snatchers toil away in castle dungeons—it’s also the
personal story of an artist’s ingenuity, how the demons in her own
life and the surrounding world pushed her to weave one of the greatest
horror stories ever told.
Evoked famously in James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein, the
genesis of Shelley’s novel is woven inextricably into literary
mythology—on a stormy night at Lord Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva, “a
hideous phantasm of a man” haunted Shelley in her dreams, and thus, as
the legend goes, Frankenstein was born. But is it truly possible that
this classic work was born of nothing more than a dream? Montillo
reveals that Shelley and the characters in her book were not the only
ones preoccupied with resurrecting the dead; for the author, who
mingled in highly educated, enlightened circles, had documented
knowledge of the many groundbreaking, daring scientists who were
cropping up across the continent—anatomists like Giovanni Aldini,
Andrew Ure, and the occultist Johan Konrad Dippel (resident of the
real life Castle Frankenstein in the 18th century), who were fueled by
the newly discovered possibilities of electricity and human
For fans of horror, science and literature, The Lady and Her Monsters is a rich, revealing, sometimes shocking exploration of the
little-known movements and people that influenced one of the 19th
century’s greatest female writers.
A former library research assistant, Roseanne Montillo holds her MFA
in creative writing from Emerson College, where she teaches courses on
literature, in addition to courses at Lesley and Tufts Universities.
Published in 2013 by William Morrow.