I think Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley would be proud
Reviewed in the United States on 15 October 2018
What I’ve always found intriguing about the original was the lack of female perspective despite it’s 18-year-old author, who inserted so much of her parents, her lover, and their close friend into her works. She definitely wrote what she knew, giving personality traits to characters from her circle of family and friends. Not only was she extremely well-read and traveled, but there was tremendous inspiration in that villa in Geneva, all of which she soaked up to write Frankenstein. Although there has been debate over authorship, I believe the project was wholly her own with edits and inspiration from Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.
For this retelling, Kiersten White did a tremendous job of bulking up the characters of Elizabeth Lavenza and Justine Moritz as well as the addition of Mary Delgado, who provided a little bit of diversity, but would play a very important role - no spoilers! As we can clearly see, Justine may have been Elizabeth’s purist love - a connection that she chose rather than the relationship she had to have with Victor to ensure her safety and livelihood. It is drilled quite emphatically about the power differences between men and women and yes, there was a ton of misogyny here, but it was the 1800s, what do you expect? Elizabeth can be seen as quite manipulative, but for the time, her looks and feminine wiles were her only tools and weapons and she used them quite well. She charged forward with a clear mission to find Victor, the mystery of his Creation, and a clear solution. Even though I knew what was to come, it kept my interest and when it finally diverged from the original, I was glued and didn’t put it down. The ending is what earned that final star!
I also enjoyed that it took the majority of the book before the Creation was fully revealed - White did wonders with him and the ending was very satisfying. And by placing the perspective from Elizabeth, we got to see the full extent of madness that had been developing in Victor Frankenstein, who she knew from childhood forward, as well as providing a much more emotional motive. It doesn’t excuse Victor’s behavior and experimentation but he really was doomed from the start.
I also really appreciated Elizabeth’s growth and development throughout the story. Even though there were times that she seemed cold, particularly about children and motherhood, Elizabeth was clearly made for independent life of study and travel, something her creator would enjoy later in life post-Shelley. Of course, we with hindsight, can see into Victor’s childhood behavior to know that something was quite not right with him. There were more than a few times I wanted to yell at Elizabeth for how she protected and coddled him - but in her mind, he was her golden ticket, really her only lifeline.They had a very flawed, dark, and codependent relationship with much enabling from Elizabeth before she realized her own flaws and how she contributed to the destruction and chaos around her. I also liked how she finally did Henry right - for much of the book, he is the villain, deemed unfaithful, selfish having abandoned her and Victor. Oh how life would have been different if she had only accepted his proposal!
It was a little slower going for me, but that was no fault of the writer. Its been awhile since I’ve read the original, so my brain was busy remembering it, while also making connections between traits and similarities to Mary, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron. All in all, I really enjoyed this, would happily re-read this again (and annotate), and plan to pick up more from this author.
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