Synopses & Reviews
On a gloomy night in 1816, as a storm brewed on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, the famed English poet Lord Byron challenged his friends to a contest to write a ghost story. The assembled group included the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; his lover (and future wife) Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin; Mary's stepsister, Claire Claremont; and Byron's physician, John William Polidori.
None of the guests expected much of the precocious Mary, who was seen by some as little more than a child. But the famous result of that night was Mary Shelley's breathtaking novel Frankenstein, which appeared in print two years later and has retained its hold on the popular imagination for almost two centuries. Less well known was Polidori's work, the first vampire novel. It too would inspire a legend (and most directly Bram Stoker's Dracula), as well as many nightmares. And the evening also begat a curse: Within a few years of Frankenstein's publication, nearly all of those involved met untimely deaths.
The Monsters tells the riveting story of the real-life characters surrounding the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Drawing on private diaries, personal letters, and contemporary accounts, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler have created a spectacular account of artistic creation and personal destruction. They reveal not just the true origins of two of the most famous monsters in popular culture, but also the monstrous and tragic nature of the young people who gathered that summer on the shores of Lake Geneva. Gripping and spooky, The Monsters is unforgettable.
"In this absorbing biography, the Hooblers, historians and children's authors (The American Family Albums), chronicle the turbulent life of Mary Shelley (17971851), author of the classic gothic novel, Frankenstein. They open with a moving sketch of the life of her famous mother, feminist rebel writer Mary Wollstonecraft, who died 11 days after giving birth to Mary. Sixteen-year-old Mary eloped to France, in 1814, with the freethinking Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Effectively surrounded by egotistical and rapacious 'monsters' such as Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, a new mother at 19, penned the tale of Frankenstein in response to a challenge set by Byron to guests at his Swiss villa. The Hooblers amply relate how the themes of Mary Shelley's masterpiece correspond to her life. Portraying Mary Shelley's stoic endurance of trauma and loss two of her children died early the Hooblers describe her final misery when Percy Shelley drowned while she was still in her early 20s. Summarizing Mary's other novels and recounting how she championed Shelley's posthumous literary reputation while raising her remaining son to conventional manhood, the Hooblers' well-crafted biography will appeal to all who wish to learn more about the conception of Frankenstein and its enigmatic author. 8 pages of b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Although the creation of Frankenstein has been well documented, the Hooblers vividly and effectively set the scene for Lord Byron's challenge to Shelley and other group members to write a ghost story as a contest." Library Journal
"Much of what the authors assert is unremarkable....Its thin thesis notwithstanding, the volume does reveal that the Hooblers have read the standard biographies of the principals as well as their published correspondence, journals and diaries." Kirkus Reviews
"You could not say of this book that it had to be written, but since it has been, it will do for the less discriminating reader who wants to start with something reasonably reliable if not ultimately inspired." San Francisco Chronicle
One murky night in 1816, on the shores of Lake Geneva, Lord Byron, famed English poet, challenged his friends to a contest--to write a ghost story. The assembled group
included the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; his lover (and future wife) Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin; Mary's stepsister Claire Claremont; and Byron's physician, John William Polidori. The famous result was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a work
that has retained its hold on the popular imagination for almost two centuries. Less well-known was the curious Polidori's contribution: the first vampire novel. And the
evening begat a curse, too: Within a few years of Frankenstein's publication, nearly all of those involved met untimely deaths. Drawing upon letters, rarely tapped archives, and their own magisterial rereading of Frankenstein itself, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler have crafted a rip-roaring tale of obsession and creation.
About the Author
Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, a married couple who have written numerous books together, were drawn to this story of great writers inspiring each other collaboratively. Their most recent novel, In Darkness, Death, won a 2005 Edgar Award. They live in New York City.