Book review: Cleopatra and Frankenstein

Cleopatra and Frankenstein

Coco Mellors

Fourth Estate

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

Whenever I think about the ending of this book I get angry. It’s not that it didn’t have a neat happy ending but it was not the kind of ending that made me happy. It was not the ending I wanted.

That aside though, the book deserves all the epithets that it’s been praised with because it is engrossing, beautifully written and poignant.

At its centre, this gritty novel is about Frank and Cleo, who meet in a whirlwind and marry in a tornado. On the edges of their dysfunction are an eclectic circle of friends who inevitably get sucked into the couple’s tempestuous gales.

I assumed, based on the title, that the book would be a modern retelling of old familiar stories and was intrigued by how the maker of monsters would get entangled with the historical femme fatale.

Having finished it, I don’t think my assumption was entirely wrong but that depends on people’s opinions about whether dysfunctional relationships make people into monsters or if monsters are attracted to dysfunctional partners.

This book would be enjoyed best if you know as little about it as possible before diving in; however, I will say this, if you enjoy ringside views of how wealthy people weather mental illness and addiction, you would enjoy this book.

Be warned though, this is a book that lingers. Not only will you probably not be able to put it down, I found myself constantly thinking about it once I’d finished reading it.

I wondered how much of it was really Frank’s fault. Would they have had a better chance at happiness had they met when they were the people they were at the end instead of at the beginning? What happened to the other characters? Why were some of the infidelities in the book so much more forgivable than others? Why was the character I disliked the most the one who was the most relatable and why did she get to have the happiest ending? These were the questions that haunted me long after I started reading other books.