Jeanette Winterson’s Mary Shelley is daring, playful and serious fun
Frankissstein: A Love Story review: Jeanette Winterson’s combines earnest concerns with page-turning energy
Jeanette Winterson: ‘But more familiar to Winterson’s longstanding readers will be the recurrence of themes from earlier work.’ Photograph Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty
For more than 30 years, Jeanette Winterson has been one of England’s most consistently ambitious, interesting and devil-may-care writers. Still best known for her debut, the autobiographical fantasy Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, her work since has been consistently varied – myths, love stories, sci-fi – and even when at her most inward-looking (Art & Lies, Gut Symmetries) there’s pleasure on every page, and she is never, ever boring. So this, her first stand-alone novel in a dozen years, should be a major literary event. Indeed that can be the only explanation for saddling it with such an indigestible title as Frankissstein: to give the other authors, vying for attention on the bookshop shelves, a chance.
The narrative alternates between two worlds. At Lake Geneva in 1816, 18-year-old Mary Shelley (“my mother made a living from her writing; it is my intention to follow her example”) starts thinking about the “ghost story” she has been challenged by Lord Byron to write, which will become Frankenstein.