Kipling Book Club
The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Theodore Roszak
Discussion rating 4/5
More than 175 years ago, Mary Shelley introduced the world to an arrogant scientist and his unhallowed creation in her classic Frankenstein. In this novel, Theodore Roszak writes the tale from the point of view of the woman who was the scientist's love interest.
Abandoned by her soldiering father to an impoverished gipsy family, apprenticed into midwifery as a child, rescued and raised by a remarkable noblewoman of Geneva, Elizabeth Lavenza was destined to be more than a foster sister to Victor Frankenstein. She became his soul mate and lover, the partner who led him on a quest into the shadowy realms of alchemical lore - commingling the scientific, the pagan spirituality, and the sexual. But the shattering of their bond in seeking the ultimate spiritual union would send Victor on his unholy pursuit of the secret of life...an exploration that would unleash only death and destruction.
One book club member considered this book "pure junk", adding nothing that she needed to know. She even went so far as to equate it with pornography. Others did like the book especially when Elizabeth became a feral woman. And some equated reading the book to their daily dose of medicine although they saw merits in the story. Unfortunately, the book club member who really disliked this book refused to debate or add to many of the points, dampening the debate.
About half of the group also read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to compare and contrast the two tales. There were some crucial episodes missing in Roszak's tale that are important to the first Elizabeth: the murder of her step family's youngest son by the monster, and the accusation and judicial death of the household maid who was also a dear friend. The difference in the writing style was also mentioned with a preference for Shelley's flowing style.
The mother's manipulation of her favourite son Victor and her stepdaughter irked members. But so did the response of the children/teenagers to their mother. There was no rebelling from either of the two children who appeared to almost accept the cult-like goal of the perfect union.
The author appears to have detailed knowledge of the pagan rituals. But this ultimate goal of a perfect union between a man and woman just doesn't fit into the Craft's fundamental belief system. Part Two develops more from the man's world of alchemical illusions than from the Craft's acceptance and honour to Mother Earth.
At first, character development of Elizabeth promised to go into great depth as it revealed her thoughts in childhood, her maturing relationship with Victor, her initiation into the Craft, her attempts to achieve the perfect union, and her journey as a wild woman. This male author must be commended on developing a woman's character so well. But, the author failed later on with Elizathbeth after she came back from her journey. She became a "yes" woman to her stepfather and the idea of marriage to Victor. This sudden change didn't move Elizabeth forward in her development nor was it adequately explained.
The narrator's responses to different stages of Elizabeth's life was a striking contrast to Elizabeth's feminist views. This contrast adds depth to the story and allows the reader to fume at the narrator's stereotypical viewpoints.