GOTHIC ROMANCE by Emmanuel Carrère

GOTHIC ROMANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A very clever--perhaps far too clever--novel by prize-winning French writer Carr&e (The Mustache, 1988) that dazzles in execution but confuses in its ends. Set in London and Switzerland, and alternating between the 19th century and the present, this is indeed a gothic tale as Carrère gives his own interpretation of that legendary evening on the shore of Lake Geneva--the evening when, in the company of Lord Byron, Shelley, and the doctor Polidori, Mary Shelley came up with the idea of writing the novel Frankenstein. The reader is introduced first to the drug-addicted Polidori, who is convinced he was the inspiration for Frankenstein--he had told the others all about the experiments he'd witnessed as a medical student. But while the dying Polidori hallucinates about what should have been written, Carrère shifts abruptly to contemporary Ion. don. There, a young woman, Ann, who writes Harlequin romances, is suddenly harassed by cryptic messages, unsolicited manuscripts about Frankenstein, and strange behavior by old friends. She is held prisoner by a man who claims that Frankenstein is still alive, then escapes, only to participate in a so. called murder party at a seaside hotel. The story then shifts to the lake, where Mary is planning her novel, and finally back to Ann, who now finds herself taking part in an enactment of that long-ago evening, but this time Ann/Mary knows what will happen in the future to all those present. And there it ends. The Shelleys, together with Byron and Polidori, are beginning to be as popular a topic as the Bloomsbury set, and Carrère does justice to all their eccentric brilliance. But as quintessentially gothic as Ann's adventures are, the two parts just don't jibe--the link is too strained, too contrived. Ultimately disappointing.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1990
Publisher: Scribners