Sunday, March 02, 2008

Book Review: "The Nature of Monsters"

Clare Clark's second novel, The Nature of Monsters (Harcourt, 2007), is a dark tale of human folly set in the early years of Georgian England. In the shadow of the dome of St. Paul's and with the South Sea Bubble about to burst, young Eliza Tally finds herself embroiled in one man's twisted (and boy do I mean twisted) attempts to "scientifically" prove the theory of maternal impression - that is, that a child is shaped in the womb by influences its mother experiences.

Like David Liss and other successful writers of fiction who've tackled this period, Clark has adequately captured the atmosphere of 1720s London. To this she adds a cast of almost entirely unlikable (even vile) characters, and a strong element of narrative suspense which maintains its hold to the last. Disturbing and dark, this book gave me a few nightmares (that's what I get for reading it right before bed, I suppose), but I recommend it to fans of gothic fiction and historical suspense.

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