Excerpt from Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Jeanette Winterson

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson X
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2019, 352 pages

    Sep 2020, 366 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Print Excerpt

Polidori does not agree. The dead are gone. If we have souls, they do not return. The cadaver on the slab has no hope of resurrection – in this world or the next.

Byron is an atheist and does not believe in life after death. We are haunted by ourselves, he says, and that is enough for any man.

Claire said nothing because she has nothing to say.

The servant brought us wine. It is a relief to have a liquid that is not water.

We are like the drowned, said Shelley.

We drank the wine. The shadows make a world on the walls.

This is our Ark, I said, peopled here, afloat, waiting for the waters to abate.

What do you imagine they talked about, on the Ark, said Byron, shut in with the hot stink of animal? Did they believe that the entire earth sat in a watery envelope, like the foetus in the womb?

Polidori interrupted excitedly (he is a great one for interrupting excitedly). In medical school we had a row of just such foetuses, at varying stages of gestation, all abortions; fingers and toes curled against the inevitable, eyes closed against the light never to be seen.

The light is seen – I said – the mother's skin stretched over the growing child lets in the light. They turn in joy towards the sun.

Shelley smiled at me. When I was pregnant with William, he used to get on his knees as I sat on the edge of the bed and hold my stomach in his hands like a rare book he hadn't read.

This is the world in little, he said. And that morning, oh I remember it, we sat in the sun together and I felt my baby kick for joy.

But Polidori is a doctor, not a mother. He sees things differently.

I was going to say, he said, a little resentful at being interrupted (as interrupters are wont to be), I was going to say, that, whether there is a soul or there is not a soul, the moment of consciousness is mysterious. Where is consciousness in the womb?

Male children are conscious earlier than female children, said Byron. I asked him what caused him to think so. He replied, The male principle is readier and more active than the female principle. This we observe in life.

We observe that men subjugate women, I said. I have a daughter of my own, said Byron. She is docile and passive. Ada is but six months old! And you have not seen her at all since shortly after she was born! What child, male or female, does more than sleep and suck when it is born? That is not their sex; it is their biology!

Ah, said Byron, I thought she would be a glorious boy. If I must sire girls, then I trust she will marry well.

Is there not more to life than marriage? I asked.

For a woman? said Byron. Not at all. For a man, love is of his life, a thing apart. For a woman, it is her whole existence.

My mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, would not agree with you, I said.

And yet she tried to kill herself for love, said Byron.

Excerpted from Frankissstein: A Love Story copyright © 2019 by Jeanette Winterson. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.

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