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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horribly Good Read
I'm a fan of Gothic novels, which gave me a head start with this one. Nevertheless, I was impressed by how Unfashioned Creatures manages to combine an elegant prose style from a writer who wears her learning and a vast amount of research lightly - (it always informs but never clouds the ficton) - with a genuinely page turning quality. I was quickly drawn in, and cared...
Published 15 months ago by Catherine Czerkawska

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Very slow!
I was looking forward to reading this book but found it very slow and cumbersome. It took ages to get through, I won't be reading any of her other work!
Published 11 months ago by carrie


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horribly Good Read, 29 Nov. 2013
By 
This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Paperback)
I'm a fan of Gothic novels, which gave me a head start with this one. Nevertheless, I was impressed by how Unfashioned Creatures manages to combine an elegant prose style from a writer who wears her learning and a vast amount of research lightly - (it always informs but never clouds the ficton) - with a genuinely page turning quality. I was quickly drawn in, and cared about Isabella. The fact that I was occasionally moved to rage by her relationships with the men in her life signifies only that she is an accurate evocation of a woman of her time. This makes for a powerful but disturbing read. Is Bella a reliable narrator or not? Is her account true, half true, or the imaginings of a deranged mind? But if Bella is disturbingly real, Alexander Balfour is an alarmingly credible creation too, a weak man with a fine conceit of his own genius, a damaged man who - because he has a modicum of power - has the capacity to damage others in turn and in dreadful ways. We see this, even while we recognize the tensions in him, his occasional flashes of morality, and our uneasy perception that no good can come of this. Can it? You'll have to read the novel to find out. There is madness, and a fascinating exploration of the treatment of madness at the time. There are ghosts, there is a vivid reality constantly blurred by the realization that things may not quite be as they seem - and finally, there is a painful evocation of the frustrations of intelligent and creative women at that time, a situation of which we can still see and feel the remnants, even today. All in all, this is a horribly good read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, 11 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Paperback)
This is a wonderfully dark book that combines a literary style with the added bonus of being a page-turner in its pace and suspense. I loved that the chapters flipped between the two main characters' perspectives, so that the reader was kept in doubt as to what was reality and what was madness even until the last moment - and, what an ending! I read it in one go, and experienced such an array of reactions, from confusion and frustration (mainly with Isabella's interaction with Alexander and David), to absolute horror at some points. Thoroughly recommended - definitely one for the Christmas list, too!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic romantic madness, 19 Nov. 2013
By 
Oscar McCloud (Glasgow Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed the easy start to this book, drawn by the helpless situation in which the main character 'Bella' was entrenched. Set in a time when women were treated with opiates for their hysteria this book sums up the total madness of the period, (forgive the pun)where depression follows romantic expectations that fall apart. I thought how shocking it was that the women in this book searching for true romance become invovled with their untrustworhty men, who fail them, each and every time. I sensed the guilty defiance from Bella feeling trapped in a marraige dripping with disapproval from society and her shame of having a mad man for a husband. But it was not clear to me who was really mad, Bella or her husband and this was the hook that had me reading on. The second character, Alex, is no better in his relationships in my opinion. His ambition is pure professional recognition for his study of madness, which runs in his family. But it was the meeting of Bella and Alex, why and how, which led me on towards reading to the very end. An end which I disapproved of. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy the Gothic dark and unstable romantic tragedies of mad women. The writing and use of language come across brilliantly, although I think I spotted one or two modern words that seemed out of place. A good read for the dark winter nights.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FABULOUS!, 18 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Paperback)
I wasn't sure if I would like this book, but I am so impressed! These characters are so deliciously dysfunctional and the hidden agendas! You won't know who is mad and who is sane in this tale of well faceted and dark personalities! So well written,the line of fact & fiction is very blurry here...so believable! A wonderful new book, that I think will surprise readers!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "the power of the sane over the insane", 11 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Kindle Edition)
I was initially intrigued most of all by the Gothic nature of this book. It's rare you see a novel written in the present, described in such a way in its blurb as would make Northanger Abbey's Catherine swoon with delight. It reminded me of a few previous reads, most notably Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. Therefore I hoped to find some of the tightly written psychological dysfunction here that I found in that novella.

For the most part I was not disappointed. There are many smoke and mirror moments here (perhaps too many), in a book told from two perspectives. We alternate between the historical figure of Isabella Baxter Booth and the fictitious Doctor Alexander Balfour - the former the wife of a man who is losing his mind and the latter a psychologically traumatised 'mind doctor' striving for the perfect subject on which to write a book, and not caring what means he must take in order to achieve his goals.

For the majority of the book I far preferred Isabella's chapters. I found the author captured her character better, kept the question as to whether Isabella, as well as her husband, was psychologically unstable hanging above us. This made me question every incident and scene, making the climax of the book all that more tense and enjoyable as a result. Although there were stand out moments in the Alexander sections, his tale had many flat pages, during which I couldn't wait to reach the next entry concerning Isabella. The plot sometimes slowed to a snail's pace, which is why this is a four star and not five star review. I think it had a lot to do with the author attempting to place a lot of period appropriate psychological study within Alexander's chapters, often glossing over the more interesting aspects of his psyche and past as a result.

Saying that, Lesley McDowell does a good job of keeping the flow of the story's period true. I thought that a few incidences were a little overly forced (the intimate connection to Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft felt a little out of place) but the attempt (often successful, sometimes not so much) to make Isabella a strong woman of independent thinking as opposed to a downtrodden wife was a pleasant change, in comparison to what novels written in the time depicted often offer.

There is a little romance but it is fleeting and not for the romantic at heart, with characters being used and abused left right and centre. In fact I would hesitate to call what comes to pass, between perhaps the great majority of the characters, romance at all. It is instead the endurance and manipulation of human feeling, practically always unrequited.

Unfashioned Creatures is not an easy read at times. However if you give it your patience you will be swept into a tale which is a mixture of psychological thriller, supernatural, gothic horror and period tale. It's definitely something uniquely different and, for fans of the Yellow Wallpaper, highly reminiscent (although not quite as powerful as) Gilman's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars most unusual, 11 Feb. 2014
By 
Ms. Siusaidh Nicneill "cruard32" (Inner Hebrides) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Kindle Edition)
captivating, controlling and unusual. This book is about early incursions into mental health reform - but more interesting. The protagonists are not likeable but they are complex and fascinating. This book looks at the nature of 'madness' and the treatment of such in the early 19th Century. From Montrose to Holland to London. The characters all have their failings but their weaknesses are our weaknesses. This is a REAL book for real readers. You will want to give it up but somehow you can't and when it's finished and gone you quietly mourn for it's passing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INTELLIGENT & PROVOCATIVE READ, 30 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Kindle Edition)
This is exceptional writing. The historical detail is deftly handled by the writer but not at the expense of the gothic imagination & characters of the book. I find it remarkable that the author can present the delusional Bella as finally the sanest character in a world of professional male insanity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and well written, 5 April 2014
This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Paperback)
I enjoyed the author's use of language, her ability to conjure a period and the immediacy of the characters - I really felt I was in their heads. If you're a fan of this period then I think you'll like it
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3.0 out of 5 stars Very slow!, 29 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Kindle Edition)
I was looking forward to reading this book but found it very slow and cumbersome. It took ages to get through, I won't be reading any of her other work!
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2.0 out of 5 stars didn't get it, 21 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Unfashioned Creatures (Kindle Edition)
I usually quite like a gothic theme to my books but this one never really got off the ground for me. I always felt I needed to know more about the characters and the scenes to actually be invested in them. and 90% of the way through I found I still didn't care for either of them. There were things thrown in that I still don't know the relevance of which just irritated me if nothing else. I persevered, but now I wonder if I should have bothered.
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Unfashioned Creatures
Unfashioned Creatures by Lesley McDowell
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