Unfashioned Creatures

'Monstrously good' –Louise Welsh. A gothic tale of madness, sexual obsession and murderous impulses

by Lesley McDowell

November 2013

‘We are unfashioned creatures, but half made up… [with] weak and faulty natures.’  from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein


London, 1823. Mary Shelley’s real-life friend Isabella Baxter Booth is ‘disturbed in her reason’ – seeing ghosts and dependent on narcotics to escape a hellish life with an increasingly violent, deranged husband. Fearful of her own murderous impulses towards him, Isabella flees for her childhood home in Scotland, where she meets an ambitious young doctor, Alexander Balfour. He will stop at nothing to establish a reputation as a genius in the emerging science of psychiatry and he believes that Isabella could be the key to his greatness. But as his own torments threaten to overwhelm Alexander, is he really the best judge of which way madness lies?

“A novel that Shelley herself could easily have put her name to. Dealing with madness, murderous impulse and scientific obsession, it is Gothic literature to the core." Rebecca Dark, We Love This Book





"A highly intelligent historical exploration …a compelling account. McDowell’s prose is dense but sharp, charged with urgency.” Brian McCabe, Herald Scotland

"Quietly chilling … McDowell succeeds so well in sweeping the modern reader into her world of pre-Victorian murk and superstition.... a finely worked and confident flight of Gothic fancy." Mary Crockett, The Scotsman 

'A meticulously researched gothic novel full of madness, ghosts and murderous desires. Lesley McDowell brilliantly evokes the tension between the scientific imagination and creative longings. Monstrously good.' Louise Welsh

Praise for Lesley McDowell’s previous books:

‘Controversial and provocative’ The Independent

‘McDowell’s confident writing boasts smart dialogue and a lyrical style throughout.’ Scottish Review of Books

‘Incredibly juicy’ New York Times Book Review

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