Clare Clark created a truly atmospheric setting for The Nature of Monsters. Her version of the 18th century London is dark and cruel, filled with hateful people indifferent to each other’s suffering. It is here, where apothecary Grayson Black lives. He dedicates his life and the last bits of money to science, studying the mysterious effects of maternal impression. Black is driven by the desire to be immortalized in the academic world and the belief that he too was touched by the syndrome while still in his mother’s womb.
The main character of the novel, however, is Eliza Tally – a crude and ill-tempered girl, who gives in to her carnal desires and gets pregnant by a man who has no intentions to marry her. Eliza hates her unborn child with passion and tries everything to get rid of it, but the baby seems to desperately cling to life. To her relief, she is sent to work for Mr. Black, and who else but the apothecary can help her to dispose of the unwanted offspring? But when her calculations backfire, Eliza has no choice but to face the monsters lurking within herself and those around her.
I loved the novel, even though it was very hard to sympathize with Eliza in the beginning. In the first chapters, she was portrayed just plain selfish. She cared for nothing, and blamed her mother for all of her misfortunes. However, as the story progressed, Eliza matured and learned to love. I found it a little hard to pinpoint the exact reasons behind her transformations, like her affection for Mary – the fellow maid. Maybe that’s why I can’t really give this book a 5. But I admit that the sinister mad scientist and the gloomy streets of London, along with amazing narrative style, won me over in the long run. Great read!