We appreciate the keen perspective of Canada Reads & Reviews, aka Simon Chibuk. Simon finds a unique perspective on a classic novel in Kris Waldherr’s Unnatural Creatures.
Who’s behind Canada Reads & Reviews?
My name is Simon Chibuk, and I reside in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. I am an avid reader and enjoy different types of genres but my favorite “go to” is historical fiction.
During the COVID pandemic, I joined the Third Thursday of the Month historical fiction virtual book club. We have had great discussions and even had the experience of having authors attend, including some from NovelNetwork! I have been part of this book club since December 2020. We have a large, growing membership list as people hear more about our group, and we are open to accept new members.
Simon’s book club, Third Thursday of the Month:
Third Thursday of the Month Book Club formed on Facebook in December 2020 as an outlet for historical fiction lovers to come together amidst the pandemic. The club currently has over 900 members from across the U.S. and Canada. Each month, 20-50 members log-in to our Zoom discussion of a historical fiction which has been suggested and voted upon by members. We enjoy author visits to enrich our discussions and introduce our members to the craft of researching and writing about a wide spectrum of historical events, people, and time periods.
Simon’s review of Unnatural Creatures:
“Some tales aren’t what you think” . . . So begins historical fiction/gothic thriller author Kris Waldherr’s newest release Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women.
This novel interested me right from the get go when I saw it was being released as first and foremost, the cover is absolutely hooking to give the reader the sense that the pages within will present a gothic/supernatural kind of tale, but also this novel interested me because it was a reimagining in ways from a unique perspective of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein but from the perspective of the women.
In Kris Waldherr’s take on this classic, readers see the story unfold from the viewpoints of the women closest to the madman who created a monster so horrific that it borders on brilliancy/madness . . . Victor Frankenstein himself.
As mentioned above, the viewpoints presented in this novel are below:
– Caroline Frankenstein: Mother of Victor Frankenstein – she’s seen in the novel as being a devoted mother who tries as much as possible to support her family amidst revolutions raging in Europe in the 18th century and at the same time, protect her family from these revolutions. Unfortunately, Caroline loses sight of what her son Victor is truly interested in and cannot stop the madness that’s unfolding until it’s too late.
– Elizabeth Lavenza: The Betrothed who’s taken in as a “ward” of the Frankenstein’s at a young age due to the kindness of Caroline. Elizabeth does what she can to become part of the Frankenstein family and is set to be married to Victor but has her own personal baggage in that she has her heart and eyes set on someone else.
– Justine Mortiz: A hunchbacked girl who is also taken in by the kindness of the Frankenstein’s and serves as their maid/servant.
The novel right from the outset presents readers with a gothic feel to it that evokes similarities to the classic novel by Mary Shelley for those who have read the classic or at least parts of it and are familiar with the basics. I found to enjoy this novel, you don’t need to read the classic but as long as you have some familiarity with the story, you’ll be just fine.
Kris Waldherr I found presented the characters in a fantastic way showing them as humans with good qualities but also with their flaws like any one of us have. In the character of Victor Frankenstein, he’s seen at the start as someone who is just as normal as can be, but then develops a bizarre interest in chemistry and alchemy. This interest evolves quickly with a visit by a Dr Galvani who introduces an experiment combining the “subject of electricity and galvanism”.
Caroline Frankenstein is seen as someone who has a very kind heart and is very devoted but is swept up constantly with worries of revolutions which surround them and could strike at any moment. Elizabeth Lavenza as mentioned above is orphaned at a young age and is taken in by the family, but ultimately finds out something life changing and starts to develop a conflict within herself of being who she vowed to be compared to who she wants to be.
An example of how Caroline Frankenstein is characterized in the novel:
“Frankenstein matriarch offered everyone, whether they were very well-to-do or a beggar. Or a fatherless hunchback girl such as herself” (the fatherless hunchbacked girl being Justine Mortiz).
Justine Mortiz is seen as a hunchbacked girl who is very grateful to be saved by her own life’s tribulations. All three characters intertwine with each other and ultimately come into the line of fire of the brilliancy/madness of Victor’s creation. However, each one sees in my opinion the creation as something different based on their life experiences/obstacles.
The descriptiveness throughout this novel is very vivid to spark imagery in the reader’s mind. For example:
“The road twisted and narrowed as it sliced through the mountain. The sun winked through the trees. Vineyards rose beside them, heavy with fruit nearing harvest”.
“She discovered herself inside a long, formal garden delineated by two banks of cypress pruned like pyramids. A long reflecting pond was set between the cypresses, within which a family of nearly grown ducklings and their mother floated placidly. Beyond it, an apple orchard. The villa’s gardens were framed by banks of mountains stretching toward the heavens”.
I quite liked that each chapter in Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women included a snippet from the classic novel that seamlessly flowed with the reimagined perspective of the classic novel.
I want to focus on Victor Frankenstein for the most part, as this character in my opinion is the main focus of this novel. His characterization was one of brilliancy, but you could sense many times while reading that he’s also bordering on madness . . . madness to the brink of not coming back so to speak.
To provide an example of the madness of Victor Frankenstein, here’s an example:
“There is one secret I alone possess. If I can bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might renew life where death has devoted, the body to corruption. This is the task to which I shall dedicate myself”.
Finally, another main character of this novel is of course Frankenstein’s monster himself. Here’s an example of how the author characterizes the monster:
“Beneath his shriveled complexion, and straight black lips, his yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries. His hair was a lustrous ebony, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness. But these luxuriances only formed a horrid contrast with his watery eyes, which appeared nearly the same color as the dun-white sockets in which they were set. He was no solider injured by war or flames. Nor was he an angel. He was a daemon, a monster. A deformity of life. A creature constructed of death and flesh, not incantations and clay. A golem”.
I can go on even more about this novel, but I don’t want to give it away too much. If you’re a fan of the classic novel or have some familiarity with it and want a unique perspective of it, fan of gothic historical fiction, or looking for a spooky toned book to read for October, I highly recommend you check out Kris Waldherr‘s Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women.
Kris Waldherr is available to visit with book clubs via NovelNetwork.com.
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