<b>Writers' night</b> <b>The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein</b> opens in June 1816, as a spooky summer storm rages around the Swiss villa of Lord Byron. Inside, five friends sit near a warm fire, writing ghost stories at the behest of their host. From the charged evening that gave birth both to Mary Shelley's <i>Frankenstein</i> and the first vampire novel, <b>The Monsters</b> segues into a superlative, riveting history of Shelley's idiosyncratic parentage (writers William Godwin and proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft), her love-starved childhood, and her erratic life with Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and their gifted contemporaries (including the mad, bad and dangerous to know Lord Byron).

With acute psychological insight, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, historians and award-winning authors of the <i>American Family Albums</i>, explicate Mary's internal and external worlds, effectively connecting the turmoil of her 19th-century life to the poignant themes at the heart of <i>Frankenstein</i>. Though her family and friends experienced misfortune and untimely deaths after she published <i>Frankenstein</i>, <b>The Monsters</b> sensibly suggests that if malady fell upon them, it was because of their monstrous natures ones that veered unwisely toward self-aggrandizement, incest and excess all in a search for unconditional love.

<i>Alison Hood is a writer in San Rafael, California.</i>

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