I love Halloween. I love to be scared. So this time every year, I try to find a scary story or two to read after the sun goes down. This year, I found many.
First, my book club pick for October was The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Theodore Roszak. A scholar and Frankenstein ‘expert,’ Roszak rewrites the classic tale in the voice of Frankenstein’s foster-sister-turned-bride, Elizabeth. (There is of course some ridiculous irony in a man rewriting a novel that to many proved that a woman could write ‘like a man’ – in order to give its primary female character a voice.)
The premise of the Memoirs is that Victor and Elizabeth were raised to form a prefect alchemical union or the ‘chymical marriage.’ Filled with pagan and alchemical ritual and highly erotic, the novel presents Elizabeth as a partner to Victor in his early research, sharing similar goals, but recognizing danger in his ambitions. The story is told or presented by Sir Robert Walton, who also narrates the original Mary Shelley novel, and is a combination of (often disjointed) letters and diary entries written by Elizabeth.
I will say that the novel was original and intriguing, but hardly the feminist tome it claims to be. Elizabeth is still overly diminutive and dependant on Victor and not at all a ‘strong female character.’ Adding witches and midwives and lesbians to a story does not make it feminist literature.
Worth a read if you are interested in alchemy and early science, with a mystical theme.
Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Bantam (Oct 1 1996)
Next up in my spooky reads is Steve Vernon’s latest collection of Nova Scotia ghost stories: The Lunenburg Werewolf. I love me a good ghost story – and all the better if it is a) true/based on truth and b) local – as in, there is a very slight possibility that I could also witness the phenomena, thus making it 400 times as scary.
The Lunenburg werewolf delivers, with a great collection of well-known and obscure Nova Scotia ghost stories, from the werewolf of the title, to better known stories like Amherst’s Esther Cox and the phantom ship of the Northumberland Strait. Vernon first weaves the tale, much my grandmother once would have done, and then follows up with descriptions of alternate versions and where applicable, possible non-ghostly explanations for the phenomena. This, and his earlier collection “Haunted Harbours” are both great to add to the collection of any folklore or ghost story fan.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing (Sep 15 2011)