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review 2018-09-20 22:55
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White

When I started this one I really wasn't certain how closely White was going to follow Shelley's original narrative, and that created some odd tension for me. It has been a while since I did a read of the original Frankenstein and I found myself comparing and contrasting, and also distrusting my memory somewhat. I was actually quite pleased, as the book wore on, when it became clear White wasn't afraid to stray from the path, so to speak.

 

A lot of this book is terrible people being terrible. Elizabeth is a pretty awful person from page one. While in many books the revelation would be a slow reveal of how she is a wretched person, instead the focus falls on *why* she's so terrible. It made for a compelling character study and a decent amount of tension. I was never sure just how far she would go, how dark, nor how White would ultimately deal with her. Without giving anything away I will say I found the ending very satisfying and somewhat surprising.

 

White has put together a really interesting, and uniquely feminine, take on an old familiar tale. Creepy, unsettling, and dark, as a good gothic story should be. She also wrote one of the best descriptions of the Monster that I have read in recent times. The grotesquery was well imagined. If you want to read a new spin on this classic tale, and you're not afraid to read about some truly damaged people, pick this one up.

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review 2018-09-18 11:33
‘Dark Descent’ gives Elizabeth Frankenstein a voice, in a retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic, now 200 years old
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White

It has been two hundred years since an eighteen-year old Mary Shelley gave life to one of the most haunting novels of all time and the first true work of science fiction, so Kiersten White’s retelling of ‘Frankenstein’ couldn’t come at a more perfect time. To think that the original book was written when a young girl accepted the challenge of writing a ‘ghost story’, and she originally didn’t lay claim to her own work.

 

Kiersten White has chosen to write ‘Dark Descent’ as a retelling from Elizabeth Lavenza’s perspective, a feminist retelling if there possibly can be one, set in a time when women were taught to be objects to be acquired.
In Shelley’s story, Elizabeth Lavenza (later to become Frankenstein) is a ‘gift’ given to Victor Frankenstein, a socially awkward child, and she is taken in by the affluent Frankenstein family in Geneva, saving her from her own mother and a life of destitution. Young Elizabeth tries desperately to win the favors of the volatile Victor, and to secure her place in the Frankenstein household, and soon brings in another young girl, Justine, much like herself, saving her from a life similar to her own. Justine Moritz is brought into the home as a governess to the other Frankenstein children, a calling that she is a natural at, and she and Elizabeth become fast friends. Much of this background is given to the reader by way of flashback interludes, as are the times that Elizabeth and Victor spent together back in Geneva before he leaves.

 

‘Dark Descent’ traces Elizabeth’s and Justine’s footsteps as they travel to Ingolstadt to find Victor - and his friend, Henry - which is where he went to continue ‘his studies’, but recently haven’t heard from. Following clues that are found in his letters home, they don’t have much to go on, but Elizabeth fears Victor’s obsessions and fevers have overcome him, and only she knows how to help him.
She also comes to the realization of what his experiments really signify, and wants to protect them from being discovered.

 

Without going further (maybe there are some people out there who don’t know the Frankenstein tale), what I will say is that this is a captivating, dark, and tragic story; times were bleak for many, and even more dismal for women, and this is made painfully clear in this retelling. White has made sure to paint a vivid picture of the ugly prospects that women had in the times of Elizabeth Frankenstein: the choices she mulls over in her head constantly are framed by how society judged women’s place in society and expected them to behave. None of that was science-fiction, and it provides a fascinating historical perspective, and leading questions into feminism. It’s not by coincidence that Shelley herself was the daughter of radical social philosophers, with her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, being a writer of one of the most important founding works on family structure and women’s education in the eighteenth-century.

 

*It’s worth noting too, that the backstory and tumultuous early life of Elizabeth mirrors that of Mary Shelley (brought up by foster parents, suffered a lot of losses in her life). I find this fascinating, and feel that this permeates the writing of the original novel, and White tries to reflect this shadowing of tumultuousness, particularly in the flashbacks.

Initially I found the book slow to get into, but I later likened it to the slow discoveries that Elizabeth was making, and how the travel at the time must have felt, and I realized that this is the type of novel that I didn’t need to rush through after all. That said, at about half way, the pace picked up considerably and I didn’t want to put it down. Once the ‘monster’ comes into the story, everything seems to happen almost too quickly, and I had a lot of overwhelming emotions in the second half of the book that made it a weightier read as it went on, descending further into grief and desperation. The title is incredibly apt in that respect. I also especially love that the tone and prose feel in keeping with the period; Kiersten did an excellent job with this.

 

Few works of fiction can garner the status of crossing so many genres (horror, romance, sci-fi, literary fiction), have affected pop culture and so many types of media, for so many generations, and with one mention of the title, conjure up so vivid images and visceral reactions to its central story. Kiersten White has captured those images and the emotions effectively inside her version, without the cartoonish depiction of the modern monster, returning him to Shelley’s imagining. Upon reading, there is a sense that Elizabeth and the monster have much in common, and the misunderstanding from the world around them is palpable. There is a distinct uneasiness at the end though, and much like the end of the ‘Frankenstein’, and even ‘Dracula’, you’re left with the feeling that things are unfinished, and that the myth will continue. It’s a feeling I relish. If you have a taste for dark, gothic, or classic fiction, give this one a read; it’s also a fabulous pick especially for lovers of classic horror and science-fiction. Thank you, Mary Shelley!

 

*Kudos as always to Regina Flath for her brilliant design of the cover. Stunning.

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/2305950033
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review 2018-06-17 17:14
Scooby-Doo! and the Frankenstein Monster - James Gelsey,Duendes del Sur
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

A spooky mystery in a wax museum told in an easy-to-read chapter book for fans of Scooby and the gang. This book was well-written with good descriptions. The book also has a few illustrations throughout, which helps break up and enhance the text. 

A good mystery for kids to try to solve as they read. It is fun to try to crack the case. Having never been to a wax museum myself, I'm not sure how much kids would relate to or understand the setting, but it definitely added a creepy vibe to the book.

My only read issue with the book was the illustrations. They were well-done, but didn't always fit with what happened in the book. At one point, Scooby sneezes, knocking over a Wolfman statue, which knocks into a Dracula statue, which lands on the Frankenstein Monster. But in the illustration, the monster is under a collection of five different statues, including a cowhand (and no Dracula or Wolfman). Also, at the end, the text says the countess takes off the monster's mask, but in the illustration, it shows Fred pulling the mask. Little details, but a bit annoying.

Overall, a good read with a fun mystery. 
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review 2018-03-22 00:21
FRANKENSTEIN IN BAGHDAD
Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel - Ahmed Saadawi
“Because I'm made up of body parts of people from diverse backgrounds - ethnicities, tribes, races and social classes - I represent the impossible mix that never was achieved in the past. I'm the first true Iraqi citizen, he (the Whatsitsname) thinks.”

I'm completely gobsmacked after finishing FRANKENSTEIN IN BAGHDAD. I didn't really know what to expect. I'm not usually a big horror reader, but this sounded so interesting, I decided how could it hurt to try? So I borrowed the fairly short library book, telling myself I could just give it back if I wasn't into it. Not only was I into it, I read it quickly in two sittings and I've been talking about this and one other book to anyone who will listen for days.

 

The large number of characters are fully realized and formed. It's incredibly complex and has a deep, twisty narrative with various interwoven storylines. It's satire, dark witty humor, and on a surface level both funny and freakish. Then the minute you think for a second about what's going on, this horror novel is deeply disturbing on myriad levels. It's allegorical, it's a straight-up retelling of Shelley's Frankenstein, it's a government spoof, and a few other things.

 

In US-occupied Baghdad, we start off with classified documents about a "story." It involves all the usual nonsense the US government is fond of doing, and my first thought was "I can see the government classifying everything and arresting people for a story." Seemed highly realistic to me. 

 

It may be a substandard horror novel. I wasn't scared. It may be a poor translation, or it may simply be that the terror is found in a different reading. I was disturbed and slightly tortured about the underlying message and circumstance being satirized -- the American occupation of Baghdad, the constant drones, the literal blowing-apart of both people and a country. 

 

There is some true brilliance of social, political, national, religious, human, etc commentary offered.Some people found it "slow." I'd guess they were looking for a horror novel only, not one that integrates the many facets this novel brings. 

 

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review 2018-03-06 16:57
A book that will enthrall fans of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and people interested in XIX century true crime.
The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein - Patricia Earnest Suter

I was provided an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Most of us have wondered more than once about the nature of fiction and the, sometimes, thin line separating reality from fiction. Although we assume that, on most occasions, fiction imitates reality, sometimes fiction can inspire reality (for better or for worse) and sometimes reality seems to imitate fiction (even if it is just a matter of perception). And although Slavoj Žižek and postmodernism might come to mind, none of those matters are new.

Suter’s non-fiction book combines three topics that are worthy of entire books (and some have been written about at length): Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mary’s own life, and Anton Probst’s life and the murders he committed. Each chapter of the book alternates between the chronological (up to a point) stories of Shelley and Probst, and comparisons of the developments and events in the “life” (fictional, but nonetheless important) of Frankenstein’s creature. The author uses quotes and close- text-analysis of Frankenstein, and also interprets the text based on the biography of Shelley, to explain how the creature ended up becoming a monster. Although the novel is an early example of science-fiction/horror, many of the subjects it touched belong in literature at large. Nature versus nurture (is the creature bad because of the parts used to make him, or because nobody shows him care and affection?), science versus morality and religion (can knowledge be its own justification, or should there be something of a higher order limiting experiments), prejudice, mob mentality, revenge, loneliness and isolation…

Shelley’s life, marked by tragedy from the very beginning (her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died when Mary was only eleven days old) was dominated by men who never returned her affection and who were happy to blame her for any disasters that happened. She was part of a fascinating group, but, being a woman, she was never acknowledged and did not truly belong in the same circle, and it seems an example of poetic justice that her book has survived, and even overtaken in fame, the works of those men that seemed so important at the time (Lord Byron, Percy B. Shelley…).

I was familiar with Frankenstein and with the life of Mary Shelley and her mother (although I am not an expert) but had not heard about Probst. The author has done extensive research on the subject and provides detailed information about the life of the murderer, and, perhaps more interesting still, his trial and what happened after. That part of the book is invaluable to anybody interested in the development of crime detection in late XIX century America (his crimes took place in Philadelphia, although he was born in Germany), the nature of trials at the time, the history of the prison service, executions, the role of the press and the nature of true crime publications, and also in the state of medical science in that era and the popular experiments and demonstrations that abounded (anatomical dissections, phrenology, galvanism were all the rage, and using the bodies of those who had been punished with the death penalty for experiments was quite common). Human curiosity has always been spurred by the macabre, and then, as much as now, the spectacle of a being that seemed to have gone beyond the bounds of normal behaviour enthralled the public. People stole mementos from the scene of the crime, queued to see the bodies of the victims, and later to see parts of the murderer that were being exhibited. Some things seem to change little.

Each part of the book is well researched and well written (some of the events are mentioned more than once to elaborate a point but justifiably so) and its overall argument is a compelling one, although perhaps not one that will attract all readers. There are indeed parallels and curious similarities in the cases, although for some this might be due to the skill of the writer and might not be evident to somebody looking at Probst’s case in isolation. Even then, this does not diminish from the expertise of the author or from the engrossing topics she has chosen. This is a book that makes its readers think about fame, literature, creativity, family, imaginary and true monsters, crime, victims, and the way we talk and write about crime and criminals. Then and now.

I’d recommend this book to readers interested in Frankenstein and Mary Shelley’s work and life, also to people interested in true crime, in particular, XIX century crime in the US. As a writer, I thought this book would be of great interest to writers researching crime enforcement and serial killers in XIX century America, emigration, and also the social history of the time. And if we feel complacent when we read about the behaviour of the experts and the common people when confronted with Probst and his murders, remember to look around you and you’ll see things haven’t changed that much.

The author also provides extensive notes at the end of the book, where she cites all her sources.

 

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