June Books 27) The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, by Theodore Roszak

Won the 1995 Tiptree Award. I wasn't quite sure what to expect; it's not terribly closely related to Shelley's own Frankenstein (and I'm baffled by the numerous online reviews whining that it's not a "sequel" – most of the book is set before the action of the original novel, so if anything it would be a prequel; but in reality it is an extended meditation on the character of Elizabeth Frankenstein and what might have shaped her life and Victor's to their date with destiny. It provides an unexpected background of the creation of the monster in the obsession of the senior Baroness Frankenstein with alchemy, and her manipulation of Elizabeth (who is presented as Victor's adopted sister, as well as his eventual wife) and Victor as part of her own grand plan, which inevitably grinds to a halt against Victor's interest in science rather than alchemy, though he shares the goal of creating a new form of life (and indeed is more successful). Poor Elizabeth is nastily manipulated by everyone, though I was amused by the outraged scholarly apparatus purportedly provided by an older Robert Walton (who, as everyone forgets, is the narrator of the framing story in Shelley). Inevitably one must compare with Mists of Avalon, which is the same sort of book (reframing of familiar legendary material through perspective of an alternative, more female-centred and largely fictional belief system). I think Roszak is a bit more disciplined than Bradley, but is also drawing on a smaller canvas which may make that easier.

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