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The Lady and Her MonstersRoseanne Montillo

Roseanne MontilloAn 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 re-animation.

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.