Review: Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson

Oh, what a fantastic book to rebound with! Yesterday, I finished a certain brand-new-release fantasy behemoth that shall remain here unnamed and left me underwhelmed and annoyed… I jumped right in to Frankissstein and was immediately hooked. I actually received an ARC on NetGalley last year but didn’t get to it before the book released, so I decided to listen to the audio. In less than a day, because it’s just that good. And that included going back over some particularly beautiful parts and phrases more than once.

I love dual timelines, and the slightly-fictionalized story of Mary Shelley’s life and her creation of Frankenstein parallels perfectly with the just-a-minute-in-the-future-from-now story of sexbots and cryogenics. Mary’s story starts in 1816 with the infamous summer she spent with Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Polidori, and Claire Clairmont, as she begins to write the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. In Brexit England, Dr. Ry Shelley meets Ron Lord, purveyor of revolutionary sex robots, Professor Victor Stein, who is a leading voice in the debate about artificial intelligence, Claire, a Christian who feels called to place herself in the center of developments in cryogenics and robotics, and Polly D., investigative journalist. Icing on the cake are some mysterious chapters involving Victor Frankenstein himself, in and out of Shelley’s book.

Mary Shelley’s timeline is romantic and sad, with a very Gothic vibe and beautifully descriptive passages. I have always appreciated the real Mary Shelley, but I very much fell in love with this fictionalized version of her through her stream of consciousness narrative. Mary’s chapters in this book really make quite a fantastic historical fiction work in and of themselves. I loved some of her discussions Bryon and Percy: ‘And where does the soul go, at death? said Byron. That is unknown, answered Shelley; the becoming of the soul, not its going, should be our concern.’ I adored the passion and emotion she shared with Percy, and her musings on feminism, life, death, and love. One of my favorite quotes from the book is Mary’s: ‘Women blame each other all the time; it is a trick men play on us.’

The modern day/future story is quirky, clever, and downright hilarious in parts. Ry is a fantastic character, and I absolutely loved seeing things through their eyes. The relationship between Ry and Victor is sexy and sweet, Ron and Claire had me laughing out loud more than once, and I was completely down for the discussions of morality, artificial intelligence, and the quest to vanquish death. I’m amazed by how this storyline raises so many important questions and deals with so many actual issues while also managing to be terribly entertaining.

Winterson’s writing is gorgeous here. This is my second book by her, and definitely my favorite to date. The book is bold, a little bit bawdy, and riddled with heavy issues, but it’s also amusing, thought-provoking, and lyrical. I can’t stop thinking about the mysterious endings… all of them.

I’m certain this book is not for everyone, but it was absolutely perfect for me.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

ARC: Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Upon finishing this book, I knew that I needed to read more books by Afia Atakora. A quick search tells me Conjure Women is actually her debut novel? All I can say to that is… wow.

Set just before, during, and after the American Civil War in the antebellum south, this striking novel tells the story of healer and slave Miss May Belle, her daughter and somewhat reluctant protege, Rue, and their master’s daughter, Varina. Rue and Varina are the same age and grow up together amidst the brutality and tragedy of slavery on a southern plantation. Secrets, lies, betrayals, magic, and spiritualism pervade the story of this community of slaves as they become free men and women and their struggles continue.

Atakora’s writing is fantastic and affecting. All of the characters are well-developed and authentic, but Rue especially stole my heart. What a beautifully complex and layered character. She’s very much a product of her life and environment , but she’s alsoindependent, smart and headstrong.

This is definitely not an easy read—as one expects, its dark, heartbreaking, and full of terribleness. It feels realistic, painful, and important, and despite all of the sadness, this book has much to offer of joy and hope. Rue, May Belle, and Varina will stick with me for a long while.

Conjure Women is out in April 2020. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this amazing book. L

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️