“My creator will not be a madman. He will be a visionary. A man with a family and friends. Dedicated to his work. I will take him to the brink and make him leap. I will show his glory as well as his horror. I will call him Victor Frankenstein.”
Why Did I Read This Book?
I was actually made aware of this book by Molly @ Molly’s Book Club, when she unboxed Frankissstein in one of her daily book mail unboxings. I was aware that for Pride Month, I wanted to read some queer lit, and I love a good modern retelling of an old classic, so this book definitely fit the bill.
What Did I Think?
OK, first of all…WHAT A BOOK. There are many things that this book left me thinking about. During the days spent reading it, and for many days afterwards, I was constantly in discussion with myself, my boyfriend, my friends and basically anyone who would listen, about the topics explored in this novel. I don’t think there was a topic about modern society that Jeanette Winterson left untouched.
Frankissstein follows two narratives throughout the book; one being Mary Shelley (both pre- and post-Frankenstein), as well as Ry who is a transgender character. Mary was born as a woman but identified more with being a man, and therefore had the breasts removed. The lower part of the body was left as it was, which sparks A LOT of debate within the book about masculinity and whether you need a penis to identify as a ‘real’ or ‘true’ man. I found this debate extremely intriguing and it certainly gave me a deeper understanding of the transgender community and how society has this constant need to want to name people and feelings into a certain box and to keep it that way.
The story, as with Shelley’s Frankenstein, raises a lot of questions regarding humanity. The character of Ry is a doctor who is helping his AI-obsessed and tech genius friend, Vic Stein, with numerous projects surrounding robots, the human body and death.
“Is his story the result of his madness or the cause?”
Vic Stein (much like Victor Frankenstein) is seemingly obsessed with bringing the dead back to life. When we meet him in the book, he is researching a lot about brain stimulation, and with that comes a whole load of interesting debates on the human body and life, especially in the terms of technology. Vic Stein seems to want to play God, much like Mary’s Victor Frankenstein did.
Some discussions raised in the book scared me a little, as it highlighted that technological advancements over the previous decades have been monumental in changing how we live today, so what does this mean for our future? Will robots become ordinary elements in our everyday lives? How will that affect employment? If you think about it, factories look a hell of a lot different to how they did only a few years ago, and one thing is for sure…there’s less human resource needed. See what I mean about raising questions?
What I think is masterful is that this book is disturbing for its time, just like Frankenstein was when it was published in 1817. This book has all the gothic elements that Frankenstein itself had; the spiders, the walking hands, the dissected bodies, the underground, storms etc. You name it, Frankissstein has got it. I think this is superb from Jeanette Winterson and shows her in-depth understanding of how the questions raised by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein are still relevant to today’s society. These questions are raised in both narratives, even though they are completely different eras and stories, showing once again that the humanity question is timeless.
It is believed that Mary Shelley suffered with the concept of life and death all the way through her life, and Jeanette Winterson does an excellent job in portraying this. From the death of her mother after her birth, to the loss of children at an early age, Mary Shelley’s story is encapsulated brilliantly and now my heart will always have a place for Mary.
“But now all I see is the fragility of bodies; these caravans of tissue and bone. At Peterloo, if every man could have sent his mind and left his body at home, there could have been no massacre. We cannot hurt what is not there.”
Being from Manchester, like Winterson, I loved the references to Manchester history. From the underground NATO city that lies beneath Manchester, to the discussions around the Peterloo massacre, it is refreshing to see the North’s history being featured and promoted. Manchester is known for its role in the industrial revolution, football and music, but there is SO much more to know about this great Northern powerhouse, which Winterson so brilliantly demonstrates.
Overall, I incredibly enjoyed this book and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a book that questions your current way of thinking. Be careful though, once you start reading, your mind will take on a thousand questions at once, and you may find yourself wanting to discuss the topics raised in this book with anyone who will listen, so here is your warning!