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Chi è veramente Bella Baxter, giovane donna ritrovata nelle fredde acque del Clyde nella Glasgow tardovittoriana e riconsegnata alla vita grazie agli oscuri esperimenti di Godwin Baxter, tormentato genio della chirurgia? Sarà arduo, quasi impossibile, dare una risposta, perché Bella è molto più della donna che è stata: oggetto di folli passioni amorose, la vedremo attraversare la sua epoca passando per salotti austeri, casinò decadenti e bordelli parigini, con lo stupore di chi per la prima volta vede il mondo nella sua prodigiosa follia, incarnando – con il medesimo desiderio che desta al suo passaggio – i più alti ideali umani, senza mai smettere di suscitare scandalo per l’oltraggio più grave di tutti: vivere un’esistenza radicalmente libera.

408 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Alasdair Gray

88 books433 followers
Alasdair James Gray was a Scottish writer and artist. His first novel, Lanark (1981), is seen as a landmark of Scottish fiction. He published novels, short stories, plays, poetry and translations, and wrote on politics and the history of English and Scots literature. His works of fiction combine realism, fantasy, and science fiction with the use of his own typography and illustrations, and won several awards.

He studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1952 to 1957. As well as his book illustrations, he painted portraits and murals. His artwork has been widely exhibited and is in several important collections. Before Lanark, he had plays performed on radio and TV.

His writing style is postmodern and has been compared with those of Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino. It often contains extensive footnotes explaining the works that influenced it. His books inspired many younger Scottish writers, including Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner, A.L. Kennedy, Janice Galloway, Chris Kelso and Iain Banks. He was writer-in-residence at the University of Glasgow from 1977 to 1979, and professor of Creative Writing at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities from 2001 to 2003.

Gray was a civic nationalist and a republican, and wrote supporting socialism and Scottish independence. He popularised the epigram "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation" (taken from a poem by Canadian poet Dennis Leigh) which was engraved in the Canongate Wall of the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh when it opened in 2004. He lived almost all his life in Glasgow, married twice, and had one son. On his death The Guardian referred to him as "the father figure of the renaissance in Scottish literature and art".

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 401 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,466 reviews3,632 followers
January 18, 2022
Moonlight is mysterious but it is cold… Sunlight is ordinary but it brings warmth…
“Only bad religions depend on mysteries, just as bad governments depend on secret police. Truth, beauty and goodness are not mysterious, they are the commonest, most obvious, most essential facts of life, like sunlight, air and bread.”

Poor Things is a brilliant stylization to the Victorian novel – a real cornucopia of reminiscences of the great novels of the nineteenth century but being a postmodernistic tale it is generously laden with mockery of all sorts of Gothic motifs.
The pictures showed many kinds of people. The ugliest and most comical are Scots, Irish, foreign, poor, servants, rich folk who have been poor until very recently, small men, old unmarried women and Socialists. The Socialists are ugliest, very dirty and hairy with weak chins, and seem to spend their time grumbling to other people at street corners.
“What are Socialists, Duncan?” I asked.
“Fools who think the world should be improved.”
“Why? Is something wrong with it?”
“The Socialists are wrong with it — and my infernal luck.”
“You told me once that luck is a solemn name for ignorance.”
“Do not torture me, Bell.”

It is a fine but more jeering companion to The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles — both books are an original outlook on the Victorian epoch with the modern eyes. They are something like a lesson and warning to contemporary man.
“Politics, like filling and emptying cesspools, is filthy work and women should be protected from it.”

Some people are authentic human beings but some are just Frankensteins…
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,050 reviews4,119 followers
March 3, 2013
The book that turned me on to frame tales, unreliable narrators, authors-as-editors, found documents, pastiche and parody, emotionally stimulating artwork, the novel an a objet d’art, run-on sentences, paratextual palaver, and metafiction-with-a-heart is as marvellous on the third read as it was on the first. Gray’s novel presents two unreliable accounts of Bella Baxter’s life—the first a Frankenstein and Victorian horror pastiche told in the form of a (fictional?) autobio of “public health officier” Archibald McCandless, the second a brief corrective letter from Bella Baxter denouncing his entire book (¾ of Poor Things) as a complete fabrication. Gray never wrote characters as vivid and wondrous as the ear-splitting mutant Baxter, the gambling Don Juan Wedderburn, and the liberated feminist Bella in his other books, and Poor Things finds him perfecting the balance of postmodern playfulness, artistic perfection and multi-layered parody and historical insight present in his other books, but nowhere as coherent, moving, hilarious, sly and cunning as in this masterpiece. I rank this as the peak of Gray’s literary achievements, below Lanark and 1982 Janine which show their age now, and recommend to all who find the above list of qualities paramount to their textual tantalisation.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
412 reviews2,221 followers
June 11, 2023
Okay, this cements Alasdair Gray as utterly brilliant. The way this story is structured is so incredibly clever: A found book-within-a-book containing dueling unreliable narrators with differing versions of the events of the story. One fantastical, one much more grounded in reality. Both characters within the found novel/possibly historical text could plausibly have perverted their telling of the story from the "reality" of the other's.

It's also a very entertaining, enlightening story all on its own.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,218 reviews9,915 followers
July 14, 2012
Almost the only thing that dragged me away from this rollicking novel was a school production of Oliver in which my daughter Georgia (soon to be 16, can that possibly be?) was cavorting and twirling as part of the chorus line (oom-papah, oom-papah, that's how it goes!) , and then warbling a solo Where Is Love as Mrs Bedwin The Housekeeper over Oliver's sleeping form – she looked so pretty with her hair piled up on her head, something she never does in real life. There was a schoolgirl usher who sat next to us on the front row, and before the performance started, she got chatting. We asked her if she had wanted to be in Oliver, and she said she had been, but had to drop out, because her dad just died. What?? You can imagine our interested smiles freezing and dropping to the floor in splinters. Oh yes, it was just a couple of weeks ago, and her mum is still in the hospital very ill from the same thing as killed her dad. What???? We really didn't know what to say, and she seemed so matter-of-fact about this ghastly tragedy. At that uneasy moment, the orphans arrived and started lining up for their gruel.

After the whole thing was done and we had gone through every single part of the evening and told Georgia precisely who was good or bad, what we thought of the sound effects for Nancy's murder and the cut of Mr Bumble's jib, we mentioned this awful story. Oh that was Grace, she said, rolling her eyes. She was going to be Mrs Bumble but she was kicked out for not turning up to rehearsals. No, her dad hadn't died and her mother wasn't in any hospital with a life-threatening ailment. I think I would have heard about that! Grace is a compulsive liar. Everyone knows that!

And so is Alasdair Gray. Poor Things is a Victorian narrative by a "Scottish public Health Officer" named Archibald McCandless which is immediately contradicted completely by a letter/essay written by the principal of the narrative, his wife Bella Baxter aka Victoria McCandless, which is in turn cross-examined and undermined to an extent by a series of contemporary notes appended by "Alisdair Gray". Some novels given to japery-wheezy faux-academic pastiche do this – check out House of Leaves for a rock and roll example, or Pale Fire by Nabokov, probably the grandaddy of the genre.
It's great fun – how could it not be when you get, for instance, the great Glaswegian seducer Duncan Wedderburn justifying himself in terms such as these:

No delicious scullions, tempting laundry manglers, lucious latrine scrubbers ever lost a day's work by dallying with Duncan Wedderburn, though the shortness and irregularity of their free time meant I had to court several at once.

Or again, savour the Dickensian turn of phrase of Bella, our heroine, talking about a trip to Argentine to try to discover some of her own mysterious history:

In Buenos Aires we tried to visit my parents' grave, but Baxter found the railway company that paid for the interment had put them in a graveyard on the edge of a bottomless canyon, so when Chimborazo or Cotopaxi or Popocatapetl erupted the whole shebang collapsed in an avalance to the bottom crushing headstones coffins skeletons to a powder of in-fin-it-se-im-al atoms. Seeing them in that state would have been like visiting a heap of caster sugar.

I've now read four Alasdair Gray books, all completely different from each other, except as regards to their linguistic effervescence. Lanark is the big masterpiece. But if you fancy a bit of Victoriana with a dash of Breughel, a spoonful of Engels and a garnishing of Mary Shelley, Poor Things will do for you as it did for me.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,979 reviews1,989 followers
August 19, 2017
BkC 154

Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: With its tantalizing reminders of Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Lewis Carroll, this is an up-to-date nineteenth-century novel, informed by a thoroughly twentieth-century sensibility. Set in and around Glasgow and the Mediterranean in the early 1880s, it describes the love lives of two Scottish doctors and a twenty-five-year-old woman who has been created by one of them from human remains. A story of true love and scientific daring, it whirls the reader from the private operating rooms of late-Victorian Glasgow through aristocratic casinos, low-life Alexandria, and a Parisian bordello, reaching an interrupted climax in a Scottish church. It contains many unsanctified weddings, but hardly any perversions, and, as The Spectator put it, "an unexpected final twist doesn't make the novel seem trivial but, on the contrary, gives the vivid melodrama a retrospective gravity. You become aware that this odd book has been a great deal more than entertaining only on finishing it. Then your strongest desire is to start reading it again."

My Review: Arch. Witty at times, fall-down funny once or twice. But when I think of this book, as I seldom do, the word resounding through my head is, "Arch."

There is something of the old-time gay subculture campiness, now fast disappearing in this day of mainstreaming, gaybies, and marriage equality on the march, about this erudite man's hommage to the Gothic romantic classic Frankenstein. NB I did not just imply Gray is a gay man. It's an irreverence for the venerated objects of culture, an inside-outing of tradition, that seems to me less and less to be found, to the great impoverishment of culture in general. Gray has done that here, has in this book sexualized the myth of Frankenstein's monster in a kind of appreciative send-up of both the sexual obsession of modern readers and the repression-through-action of Victorian ones. The exotic Mediterranean locales, specifically the louche climes of Alexandria, the successor to then-Austrian-ruled Venice as the wickedness capital of the world, make the story feel of the time. The aura of sinful wickedness is period as well.

The narrative, and its ending, are 20th-century approved...and probably the best bit of the book.

I take off an entire star, though, for the sheer wearing endless sameness of the arch tone. Put that eyebrow back down, sir! Uncrook that pinky! Alas, he never does. 'Tis a pity.
Profile Image for David.
497 reviews70 followers
August 1, 2023
Much like the Beatles song of the same name, the spunky heroine of this delightful romp seemed to suddenly come in through the bathroom window. Reading of her madcap life, it was clear Bella Baxter could steal but she could not rob.

Gray's novel wafted into my life in a roundabout way. I am a big fan of Yorgos Lanthimos' film 'The Favourite' (surprising, since I more or less detested his previous films). After watching 'The Favourite' several times, I got around to thinking, 'Who wrote this delicious bonbon?' Turns out it was co-authored by Tony McNamara - who, as it turns out, also co-authored the only Disney film I'd seen (and enjoyed) in many years: 'Cruella'.

As it again turns out (there are many things turning out here), Emma Stone performed brilliantly in both films. Turning out further, Emma and Tony were both hitched to Lanthimos' next film... based on a novel by Alasdair Gray. This novel.

So I had to read the book. Emma is, of course, cast as Bella. I predict she will be hilarious in a role that is an actor's dream. It's a very funny book but, more importantly, Bella is an ingenious creation.

~ which is quite literally what she is: a 'Frankenstein'-esque creation. It's Gray's particular spin on Mary Shelley (or, more accurately, James Whale's 'Bride of Frankenstein') that makes all of the difference. For example, this isn't a grave-robbing tale - well, not exactly. But the result comes to the same. Gray seems to have had a real love of Victorian lit because he pulls from a number of different famous gothic sources in order to serve up this anarchic homage.

In overall tone, the story - with its divine wit and its infectious and often fractured wordplay - brought to mind Peter Barnes' thrilling black comedy 'The Ruling Class' (filmed memorably with Peter O'Toole in the lead). Not that Gray's work is murderous in character - it isn't. But it shares Barnes' WTF trait of suddenly veering off from where you thought you were.

Stylistically, echoing 'Rashōmon', 'Poor Things' flies off to conflicting angles and POVs a few times after the initial set-up. The reader needs to be on his / her toes. Things move from a macabre drawing room romance to something deeply epistolary and around-the-globe to, finally, a reality that pulls the rug out from under a well-earned expectation. All with illustrations! By the author!

And then there's even another segue after that. The book concludes with a 'Notes Critical and Historical' section (supposedly by the 'real' author) - but, frankly... this was the only part of the experience that felt like a strain. It felt superfluous and a bit toothless. I soon started skimming this refuting biographical wrap-up. It contributes little to (though it doesn't at all mar) the zany richness of what precedes. (The last page does put a specific button on a life.)

I don't know whether or not Gray consciously had a 'message' in all of this. He mostly seems to be having fun while making it all fun for *us*. It's mainly one of the most unique love stories I've ever encountered, sprinkled with generous portions of Feminism, Socialism and A Uniquely Haunting Beauty.
223 reviews193 followers
October 2, 2011
Its been a long time since a book played such havoc with my emotional state: driving me up and down the gamut of elation and despair, calling at all stops in between. In the end, I am left impotent with rage , mostly at myself, for breaking my cardinal rule and going past page 70 which is my internal cut-off for books that don’t make the cut. Because now I have lost three hours of my life reading this hogwash that I will never regain again.

We start off with a gentle enough preamble about Baxter and McCandles, two dubious specimens of Victorian quack medicine, whereupon Baxter revives a dead woman by replacing her brain with that of her 9 month old infant. Who wakes up an amnesiac, a blank slate upon which to project hopefully the best of 19c enlightened thought. Now, since I have, admittedly only skimmed through Pygmalion, Dracula and Frankenstein, I wasn’t so inured as not to be able to enjoy this, although a nagging sense of disappointment did make me wish Gray had infused a little more...je ne se quoi in this modern retelling of the Bride of Frankenstein. Perhaps a subtle deviation in tone, cadence, style, characterisation from Shelley wouldn’t have been amiss...Still, it was only page 40 or so, so onward I pressed. And then, in due course, of course, of course, McCandles gets to meet Bride aka Bella, at a moment when her brain happens to be the equivalent of a twelve year old girl. Within seconds the besotted Victorian proposes marriage, trembling like a leaf before the fine form of this child-woman. Now, I simply can NOT abide this type of behaviour in real life (Where being a Victorian is not a prerequisite for securing a trophy wife), so I don’t see why I have to make allowances for this disgusting habit in my reads. Luckily, this novel wasn’t on my kindle so I could indulge my indignation and fling it half way across the room where it whacked the wall and sliced through the Osborne &Little like a serrated knife through butter: but it was so worth it! I left it there on the floor all day so I could give it a great old wholloping kick every time I passed by. But, and yet....I had actually enjoyed Gray’s Janine1982 so well, plus, the cover of ‘Poor things’ does say in great big bold that it won the Guardian fiction prize in 1992: and I still (somewhat) respect the Guardian. So in the evening I decided to give it a ‘wee’ chance again.

And now Things picked up considerably. Bella has run off with a shameless libertine, a rogue of the first order, a cad, a...I’m running out of Victorian superlatives, but one gets the meaning. The next few chapters are a letter from said scoundrel to Baxter, in which he bemoans his elopement with Bella because she has turned out to be a voracious nymphomaniac who has literally and mentally drained him dry. This letter, which runs the course of several chapters, could be its own standalone short story and is the highlight of the book. Humorous, poignant and at pains to break with cliché, it gives a hysterical spin on 19c notions of Gretna Green phenotypes.
Alas, this high was not to last. Immediately after this interlude, we have a letter from Bella: and this too runs through asome chapters. By the end of which I caught myself puckered up as I sucked on this lemon. Now we have Bella’s education as her blank mind is exposed to 19 political, social, cultural, educational and other beliefs. Condensed in ten pages. But the reduced Shakespeare company this ain’t. For god’s sake, Either use a fictional story line as the skeleton on which to hang your philosophical and spiritual template, Like Robert Pirsig and Carlos Castenada do so successfully, or shut up. Just don’t try to set the world on fire with a few soundbites of Malthusian population dynamics and Winwood Reade’s Martyrdom musings, applied to the Napoleonic wars and subsequent unemployment, randomly, briefly and without context. This half baked Pigmalion take on ‘educating Bella’ falls flat on its condensed 19c socio-political face. This book just doesn’t know what to do with itself: its trying to be all things to all men.

And finally, the denouement. Yes, we find out through Bella’s memoirs, that indeed that is what this book was trying to be: her hapless husband McCandles (whom she eventually marries, and who was the author of this hodgepodge), was in fact copying every known 19 c century writer. And it goes like this, in Bella’s words:
‘What morbid Victorian fantasy has he NOT filched from? I find traces of The Coming Race, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dracula, Triby, Haggard, The case book of Sherlock Holmes.......’
So thats alright then. Sew up a book together (and har-de har, so the book becomes the modern day monster), apply Chinese water torture to the reader through use of every cliché known to man, and exonerate yourself afterwards by claiming it was all an artistic ploy. Crafty, because what idiot now would muster up the courage to slag off this Victorian pastiche shown through the optic of a post modernist cynic? After all, the author himself admits he was plagiarising for the sake of ‘arte’. Well, yours truly for starters. For Christmas, I may send him a copy of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, from a fan.
Profile Image for Paul Dembina.
438 reviews92 followers
August 22, 2023
Mr Gray is one of my absolute favourite authors. Not only for his entertaining works but also for his wry, humerous and humane ruminations on all that's wrong in the world.

He is sorely missed but at least we have the books. He was also an excellent artist and under the dust covers of his hardbacks are often beautifully executed images.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
876 reviews1,106 followers
October 26, 2015
3.5 stars.

This is my second time reading Poor Things, around 6 years on from the first time. I've knocked it down half a star from the first reading, because upon a re-read I found there were sections that I found quite boring this time around.

I usually find Alasdair Gray's writing a bit of a mixed bag. In this book there's definitely a lot to like - allusions to Frankenstein and other gothic classics, Victorianism, sex, dark humour, and brilliant illustrations courtesy of Gray himself. I always think it's best to read an Alasdair Gray book in hard copy to fully appreciate the book as an object as well as a story.

The book follows the account of Archie McCandless, a Scottish public health officer, who falls in love with a strange woman named Bella Baxter, created by his medical 'friend Godwin Baxter by implanting her unborn child's brain into her lifeless body. Strange? Yes it is. Messed up? Undoubtedly so, but that's just Gray for you.

There were sections that just didn't do it for me this time around. The long letter narrated by Bella Baxter had points in it where I really wished I could just skim the words, because it involved politics and philosophy and things that I felt drew me out of the narrative - particularly in contrast to the darkly funny letter from her another character narrating the same events. There was also a fair amount of 'historical' points in the back of the book from Gray himself that just wouldn't let me go when all I wanted was to leave the story where it had ended (at a rather satisfying point I felt).

Sometimes I dislike the way Gray puts himself into his novels (I've seen it before in Lanark and found it rather pretentious), but I did enjoy the way he created a book within a book in this novel. It made the reading experience more interesting and it was fun to imagine all the familiar Glasgow landmarks throughout.

I'd recommend this as a good place to start with Alasdair Gray's writing - you'll quickly find out whether or not you're a fan of his style.
Profile Image for Mel.
258 reviews43 followers
September 6, 2023
Such a wonderful use of the “book within a book” trope and a scathing critique of the patriarchy and capitalism. All chronically online people critiquing the forthcoming Yorgos Lanthimos film for being a feminist fable directed by a man would have their heads explode if they read this. Alasdair Gray gets it in a way men rarely do, and Poor Things is a deliciously unhinged odyssey of a woman reborn that pulls no punches. Men are constantly depicted as whining, hypocritical menaces and it’s oh so satisfying. I was already immensely excited to watch the film, and reading the novel has increased my anticipation a hundred times over.
Profile Image for ΠανωςΚ.
369 reviews45 followers
October 25, 2020
Το βρήκα καταχωνιασμένο σε ένα χαμηλό ράφι, το πήρα με λίγες προσδοκίες, σε φάση "δεν βαριέσαι" και εντέλει ενθουσιάστηκα. Και ερωτικό και πολιτικό και της φαντασίας και λογοτεχνικοανατρεπτικό και διακοσμημένες οι σελίδες με καταπληκτικά σχέδια του ίδιου του συγγραφέα - άλλωστε λόγω εξωφύλλου το αγόρασα κι επειδή με αρέσουν οι εκδόσεις Νεφέλη (βασικά με αρέσει η λέξη νεφέλη).
Μιλάμε για παντελώς αξιόπιστα (νοτ) και αντικειμενικά (νοτ) κριτήρια.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,889 reviews1,417 followers
October 3, 2011
A stirring melange of Frankenstein and Pygmalion. I bought my copy of this at a great shop in Camden; I then read half in Heathrow and finished such flying over the Atlantic.
Profile Image for nostalgebraist.
Author 4 books457 followers
February 13, 2013
This Frankenstein re-imagining (I realize that word was created by marketing for bad movies but it seems appropriate), with seasoning from various other Victorian tales of the gothic/fantastic, gives a radically extended role to the monster and his (in this case, her) narrative, which was the only part of Shelley's original I really liked anyway. The core story is full of charm and humor and faux-Victorianism and delightful weirdness, though it's very much a cartoon. Not just in its medically impossible premise but in numerous instances of strange hyper-romanticized behavior -- characters proposing marriage almost at first sight, screaming so loudly that they can be heard for miles around, that sort of thing. Given that such excesses are common but not pervasive, it's never quite clear what level of realism we should expect out of the story at any given moment. But it's still lots of fun.

On the basis of that core story, I'd give the book maybe 4 stars at most. However, the core text is not the entire book. It is surrounded by a frame story which calls its accuracy into question. As many other people have commented, the whole thing feels a lot like Pale Fire -- we spend most of the book reading what is heavily suggested to be the work of an eccentric, delusional-or-mendacious hack. In Pale Fire, though, Charles Kinbote's unreliability is entirely conveyed through internal evidence -- we realize he's a hack because he comes off as one (albeit one who can write real pretty). Archibald McCandless, the author of the core story in Poor Things, doesn't exude incompetence the way Kinbote does, and the only internal evidence for his unreliability is the cartoonish quality of the events he relates. This makes the "McCandless is wrong" interpretation almost as hard to believe as the events McCandless relates, because it's hard to connect the sensitive, likable voice of the core text with the rather pathetic man described in the frame narrative.

This is a (small) defect, but it is necessary, because it allows McCandless -- unlike Kinbote -- to charm the reader and thus enlist them, almost against their will, for his side. The core story, in its fanciful unreality, would be a very light confection on its own. But as it started to disperse, near the end, into an intractable mess of worldly facts, I found myself desperately wanting it back. This joyously silly book ends, surprisingly, in a tone of sublime melancholy. The value of all that cartoon silliness and light is in the fact that you can't have them! A realer feeling than realism alone can offer.
Profile Image for El Convincente.
124 reviews22 followers
September 4, 2023
Muy recomendable si:

-Amas los mitos literarios decimonónicos (Frankenstein, Alicia, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Dracula).

-Te encantan los narradores poco fiables, la combinación de testimonios de distintos personajes que se complementan y se contradicen, el recurso Rashomon. La piedra lunar. Rosaura a las diez.

-Consideras que el ingrediente que siempre mejora cualquier obra es el sentido del humor.

-Crees que se suele dar más valor a la ruptura de la cuarta pared que a la metaficcion que no dinamita la ilusión narrativa, cuando lo segundo tiene mucho más encanto.

-Aprecias el estilo epistolar de la narrativa del XIX.

-Te conquistan los detalles.

-Te gusta lo gótico y lo fantástico pero te cansa lo genérico.

-No desprecias la falta de pretensiones.

-Quieres hacerme feliz diciéndome que te has leído la novela gracias a mi recomendación y te ha encantado.
Profile Image for Helen McClory.
Author 9 books199 followers
December 25, 2016
Madcap and rich, with fun textual and illustrative games, distinctive characters and a whirlwind of references, this is a book that I probably should have encountered earlier.
Profile Image for Anoud.
515 reviews63 followers
March 3, 2022
6 ⭐
A retelling of frankenstein, set in 1800 Scotland, where a professor claims he has found a pregnant woman who has drowned herself in the river, and cut her open, he then took the brain of her unborn child and put that within the woman, so now he has created this woman who has the brain of a baby and the body of a grown up.

This was insane!
I didn't know whether I should be laughing or guffaw, be disgusted or schooled. I was left speechless so many times, mouth wide open, dumbfounded by the genius shit I was reading, it was so addicting it's absurd. I'm telling you, I didn't want to stop reading!!! It was unbelievably entertaining, educational, hilarious and frankly messed up, I liked the last part the most. Hehe. Shookth? I was. THIS WAS MAD CRAZY GOOD. The story was so theatrical at times it bordered on ridiculous, which is a thing I like apparently.
It's about feminism, colonialism and science.
Profile Image for Nemo.
114 reviews
September 3, 2023
Dr. Godwin Baxte, bestows life upon a deceased woman by transplanting a fetus's brain. Victoria, the resulting creation, teems with a childlike curiosity that extends beyond her creator. Her amorous escapades lead her away from Baxter's grasp, but the narrative embarks on a continental odyssey.
Bella's letters paint a vivid picture of their travels, from Odessa's shores to Egypt's sands and the alleys of Paris. Unexpectedly, she returns to McCandless, only to add more twists to this unconventional tale. McCandless pens his memoirs, but a letter, concealed until 1974, reveals Bella's alternate perspective, leaving readers in a delightful quandary.
Profile Image for Phil.
534 reviews25 followers
July 19, 2023
I reread this Whitbread Award winning novel in preparation for the upcoming film adaptation (the first of an Alasdair Gray novel) directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and starring Emma Stone as Bella Baxter / Victoria McCandless.

I went in with some trepidation, because I've always loved the maverick nature of Alasdair Gray and in an earlier life I edited a book about / with him for the British Library, but I've not returned to any of this works for around a decade. Would this book stand up to the test of time, 30 years on (my god, is it really 30 years since I saw Gray give a book store reading at the Leeds branch of Sherratt & Hughes and discussed Flann O'Brien with him while he signed my armful of books?)

In short answer - for me at least - it's a resounding YES. In the panoply of Gray's work, this is a major book and a great one for those approaching his work for the first time - probably his most accessible, if not quite his best : Lanark is the most ground breaking, 1982 Janine is the most experimental, Unlikely Stories Mostly is his most playful.

Combining elements of Frankenstein, Pygmalion, The French Lieutenant's Woman and many more, this globetrotting tale is funny, wise, exciting and moving. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but I believe that Lanthimos is a great choice of director for this project and I hope that he does it complete justice.
Profile Image for Gabby.
64 reviews
April 2, 2023
Multimodal, ambiguous, with an enticing plot, cryptic characters and an original exposition and structure. This is the Tristram Shandy of our time!
Profile Image for Iva S..
27 reviews4 followers
May 10, 2018
Last year I read “Lanark” by the same author and fell in love with it. I thought this one was going to top that but it didn’t. I really liked it but didn’t love it as much. It’s a mix of “Frankenstein” (which is one of my favourite books) and “Beauty and the Beast”. At the center of this novel is Bella Baxter and her second chance for better life. Kind of a weird chance actually. A pregnant woman jumps into the river but Godwin Baxter (or God for short) brings her back to life by putting her baby’s brain into her head. This is how Bella Baxter is born. She is quite a character. I’m going to remember her for long. It’s a very well crafted commentary on the independence of women. The book is full of unreliable narrators and beautiful illustrations. https://nineaftersunset.wordpress.com...
Profile Image for Hande Kılıçoğlu.
173 reviews69 followers
October 9, 2018
Frankestein hikayesinden izler bulacağınız bu kitapta, yeniden yaratımın alışılmışın dışında bir versiyonunu bulacaksınız. Çocukluğu elinden alınan ve yetişkin bedeniyle aniden var olan bir kadın nasıl bir gelişim gösterir, nasıl bir kişilik geliştirir? Dünyada var olan acı gerçeklerle ve yanlışlarla, yıllara yayılan bir yavaşlıkta değil de aniden yüzleşmek zorunda kalırsanız bu sizi nasıl etkiler? Kendi değerinin farkında olan ve kukla görevi verilmeyen bir kadın neler yapabilir? Hepsinin cevaplarını bu ilginç hikayede bulabilirsiniz. Gerçekle kurgunun, doğru ile yanlışın harmanlandığı bir kurgusu var. Sonuç olarak kitabın son sayfasını da okuduktan sonra hangi hikayeye inanacağınıza siz karar vereceksiniz.
Profile Image for Doug.
2,046 reviews745 followers
October 13, 2022
3.5, rounded down.

This is one of those books that are so good in PARTS, you just wish it were better as a whole. The main text is fine, but then there are side diversions, footnotes and long sections dedicated to ruminations about politics that are... in a word ... boring (and largely superfluous). And then there is an afterword undercutting everything that has gone before and that tries to explain away the more fantastical elements that is the chief charm of the book (which is sort of a faux 'Bride of Frankenstein' tale).

Regardless, I mainly picked this up because Yorgos Lanthimos, the eccentric Greek director, is making a film of it starring Emma Stone, so am hopeful he can shape it into something much better as a movie than a novel.
Profile Image for Gerasimos Reads .
326 reviews168 followers
March 31, 2017
I really enjoyed this. It was genuinely funny and it was written in a quite fresh and unique way. It was a parody of a lot of different stuff from the early 20s which I loved.
Profile Image for Aj Sterkel.
796 reviews33 followers
May 3, 2016
I was hesitant to read Poor Things because there is a lot going on in this novel. The book has strange formatting and images. It’s written to sound like a Victorian classic, but it’s also satirizing Victorian classics. It’s a bizarre feminist Frankenstein reimagining told by multiple unreliable narrators. It’s a book-within-a-book. I wasn’t sure if it would be too meta for me to get interested in the story. I often feel distant from metafiction because it can be too clever for its own good.

The majority of Poor Things is made up of a memoir written and self-published by the main character, Dr. Archibald McCandless. He tells the story of how his friend, Dr. Godwin Baxter, acquires the body of a drowned pregnant woman. Baxter resurrects the woman by replacing her brain with the brain of her unborn baby. Baxter names his creation “Bella Baxter” and tries to make her into his perfect companion. This works out well until Bella and McCandless fall in love and get married. (This isn’t a spoiler. McCandless says it in the beginning of his book.)

The second part of Poor Things is a letter from “Bella” to her great-grandchildren. After her husband’s death, she reads the memoir he wrote and decides that she needs to set the record straight. Her marriage to McCandless was far from perfect, and her Frankenstein-like “resurrection” wasn’t anywhere near as mysterious as he made it seem.

“You, dear reader, have now two accounts to choose between and there can be no doubt which is most probable.”- Poor Things

I have mixed feelings about this book. It definitely wasn’t too meta for me, but I did have problems with it. The beginning and end are entertaining. I laughed at Bella’s “erotomania” and the way that her sex drive and wandering eye exhaust men. She quickly turns their fantasies into nightmares. But, the middle of this book is extraordinarily boring. This is one of those novels where the characters don’t do much. I have to admit that I skimmed parts of the middle and that I considered giving up on the book multiple times. The middle mostly consists of McCandless and Baxter talking and reading letters. I lost patience with the lack of action. The only reason that I kept reading was because I knew that Bella’s side of the story would be told at the end, and I wanted to hear it.

I also got annoyed with reading Bella’s rambling, punctuation-less dialogue and writing. I know that she (supposedly) has the brain of an unborn baby, but I skimmed some of her letters and dialogue because I couldn’t take it.

“Dear God I am tired. It is late. Writing like Shakespeare is hard work for a woman with a cracked head who cannot spell properly.” – Poor Things

Even though I was bored for the majority of the book, there are a few things that I really like about it. The author does an excellent job with the unreliable narrators. They have vastly different interpretations of the same events. A character who is likeable from one person’s perspective can be a total jerk from another’s. It’s very realistic.

I also like the feminism. Every man sees Bella as a blank slate. They each try to make her into what they want. They tell her what to believe about religion and politics. They try to form her into their ideal wife or companion. Even McCandless attempts to make Bella what he wants by taking it upon himself to tell the world her story. The reader doesn’t get to hear Bella’s real voice until the end. Everything else she says in the book is filtered through the male narrators. It isn’t until the end that the reader realizes that Bella may be manipulating the men just as much as they are manipulating her. She uses the men to make a difference in the world.

“I clenched my teeth and fists to stop them biting and scratching these clever men who want no care for the helpless sick small, who use religions and politics to stay comfortably superior to all that pain: who make religions and politics, excuses to spread misery with fire and sword and how could I stop all this? I did not know what to do.”- Poor Things

I can’t say that I recommend reading Poor Things because I thought the majority of it was slow, but if you’re interested in feminist literature, you might want to check it out.
Profile Image for Mariana.
24 reviews3 followers
June 12, 2023
Não conhecia muito sobre autores ou autoras da Escócia. Geralmente, a Inglaterra monopoliza a nossa atenção no quesito obras literárias (um erro que eu busco anular, visto que a Escócia possui ótimas obras que não são tão divulgadas ou lidas - uma pena, porque aqui temos um autor contemporâneo que é tão delicioso de ler que fico triste de não tê-lo conhecido antes).
Vou ser sincera: descobri Poor Things por causa de um diretor que aprecio muito, o grego Yorgos Lanthimos. O diretor adaptou esse livro para um filme (muito interessante do ponto de vista estético) que estreará em setembro. Me surpreendi quando vi que o filme, na verdade, provém de um livro (!) de um escritor escocês (!!). Como me chamou muito atenção a proposta do filme, fui atrás da ficção de Alasdair Gray.
Olha, eu não vão falar muito sobre o livro aqui nessa review, porque espero que quem está me lendo vá atrás e leia. Deixo, assim, sem qualquer indicação sobre o plot ou personagens (e aqui registro a minha tristeza em ver que esse livro não tem tradução para o português, ao mesmo tempo em que Colleen Hoover é traduzia à exaustão - espero, com o filme, que as editoras traduzam essa deliciosa narrativa).
Na verdade, me corrijo, deixo só uma dica: se você se interessa pela Era Vitoriana (seja para amar,odiar ou apenas ponderar sobre) e suas neuroses que envolvem repressão sexual, morbidez fúnebre, receios de novos maquinários, pensamentos que solidificam conceitos fundadores de capitalistas, socialistas e comunistas, leia esse belo livro. É cheio de metalinguagem e colagens. É, sem dúvidas, um livro pós-moderno que me conquistou até o fim (e olha que eu tenho certas questões com o pós-modernismo na literatura - esse livro de Alasdair, por outro lado, é um exemplo perfeito de para onde podemos ir com um ótimo pastiche literário, que não deixa de lado a sua sensibilidade profundamente humana).
Leiam, leiam!
Profile Image for Bob.
825 reviews70 followers
March 3, 2009
Haven't found a copy of "Lanark" (the 1001 Books choice for this author) but this was so good I will renew my efforts to find it.

Indisputably funnier and arguably more philosophically profound than David Mitchell's "Ghostwritten" (to randomly juxtapose the two most recent things I read). This lacks the writers' workshop dazzle (the Scottish author does not narrate from the point of view of an early 20th century Chinese peasant - restricts himself to an early 20th century Scotswoman) but verisimilitude is not the point. Instead the showing-off is more casual, e.g. the central character is going through a Shakespearean phase and writes pages of a letter in effortless iambic pentameter.

The central character's life and times (retold from several points of view, with the expected discordant results) covers the mid-19th to mid-20th century and the arc of her life somehow perfectly mirrors history, in a way quite like Orlando.
Profile Image for Alkestis  G.
66 reviews9 followers
December 23, 2021
Μόλις πληροφορήθηκα ότι επρόκειτο να γίνει ταινία από τον Λανθιμο έσπευσα να το διαβάσω. Είναι ένα σουρεαλιστικό βικτωριανο παραμύθι που διηγείται την ιστορία του Θεόνικου Μπάξτερ ενός ικανοτατου δυμορφου γιατρού που βρίσκει παρηγοριά στα θαύματα της επιστήμης του. Ο Μπάξτερ, επιδιδομενος σε φρανκενσταινικα πειράματα θα κατορθώσει να επαναφέρει στη ζωή τη Μπελα, μια εκπαγλου καλλονής 25χρονη η οποία αρραβωνιαζεται τον καλύτερο του φίλο δόκτορα Μακερι. Η Μπελα μαθαίνει από την αρχή τη ζωή, τις χαρές και τις πικρες της, και δεν μοιάζει σε τίποτα με όλα τα προκατειλημμενα ενήλικα πλάσματα. Βλέπει τη δυστυχία του κόσμου από την οπτική της παιδικής αθωότητας και επιτάσσει την αλλαγή των συνθηκών.
Ένα βιβλίο εξαίρετα γραμμένο, αστείο, τραγικό, με άπειρες φιλοσοφικές προεκτάσεις. Εντυπωσιαστηκα!!
Profile Image for Mae Crowe.
257 reviews94 followers
September 26, 2021
This is easily one of my favorite books I've read for school. It's unspeakably weird, and it layers narrators on like there's no tomorrow, making the truth truly indistinguishable. I was giggling my way through Victoria's letter and every single time she went "everything about this is bullshit and my husband probably needed mental help if he was so delighted by writing this, like what the hell was his problem," I achieved new levels of joy.
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