Pride and Prometheus

384p. S. & S./Saga. Feb. 2018. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781481481472.
Set 13 years after the events of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, this literary mash-up of that classic and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is told from the point of view of Mary Bennet. The morose and sanctimonious Bennet sister is resigned to the idea of a spinsterhood filled with fossils, philosophy, chats with her sister Kitty, and taking care of her parents—until she meets the enigmatic and tortured Victor Frankenstein. She has finally found her intellectual match, and this infatuation lands her in the middle of his and his Creature's conflict. The chapters alternate among the perspectives of Mary, Victor, and the Creature, and Kessel ingeniously weaves together the plot lines of the two source materials. Tweaking the time lines and locations slightly, the celebrated author has created a new story with the wit and heart of the originals while painting Mary in a sympathetic light. She is still the naive daughter of privilege who enjoys sermonizing, but she also is willing to go against convention in pursuit of knowledge and love. Kessel explores the idea of humanity, faith, romanticism, and hints of feminism with lush language and deep characterization. Austen and Shelley enthusiasts will appreciate the references and details, but those unfamiliar with the original tales will find much to enjoy in this work of atmospheric speculative fiction. The sometimes languid pacing is balanced with elegant prose and rich settings.
VERDICT Give to fans of literary retellings and revisionist historical fiction.

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