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Requiem for the Author of Frankenstein: 11/27/08
Requiem for the Author of Frankenstein by Molly Dwyer is an ambitious paranormal historical fiction. It is akin to children's classics such as A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley and Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce but written for an adult and literary audience.
The book has intertwining narratives, one set in the present where Anna is researching her family's ties to Mary Shelley and then Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin's relationship and later marriage to Percy Bysshe Shelley. The two plots mingle together through dreams and trances revealing the many ways that Mary and Anna are kindred spirits even though they are separated by time.
At six hundred pages, the novel requires a commitment from its readers and the initial payoff doesn't come until well past page 100. So much of the book, especially early on, is weighed down with historical details and unnecessary tangents. Anna, for instance, may be a competent traveler but she gets confused up on common use British terms (such as torch for flashlight). These hiccups in her basic working knowledge feel out of character. At the other extreme, too many pages are spent in outlining the accomplishments and beliefs of the famous people in Mary's life. While in small doses it is interesting to see these figures interacting entire chapters of nothing but exposition breaks up the flow of the plot.
I think I expected more ghost story and less feminist essay in the disguise of a novel. There is nothing wrong with social commentary in fiction, Frankenstein, the inspiration for Requiem does an excellent job of it, but Requiem oft-times sacrifices entertainment for thesis.