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Transformation by Mary Shelley


by Mary Shelley

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Mary Shelley is best known for "Frankenstein" and, to a lesser extent, her end-of-days novel "The Last Man". However, apart from a number of other novels, she also wrote several short stories, often with a supernatural or fantastic theme. Three of these are included in this attractive paperback edition published by Hesperus Classics. The title piece - "Transformation" - describes the narrator's Faustian pact with a devilish dwarf, and is rich in Gothic tropes. "The Mortal Immortal" features a hapless protagonist who drinks an elixir of life and eventually discovers that immortality is more of a bane than a blessing. "The Evil Eye" is a tale of warring tribes and family feuds set in the Balkans. Despite its title, its subject is not overtly supernatural but, in its exoticism and unexpected plot twists it recalls respectively the "Oriental Gothic" and the then budding genre of "sensation literature". All three stories are finely crafted and reveal an active imagination at work. "Frankenstein" was certainly no one-off. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 22, 2015 |
This is a good little book: just three stories collected together, but they're all interesting.

The first two are in the Gothic tradition: the title story, Transformation is a story of about the squandering of youth's potential, of decadence and selfishness. A morality tale, but not overbearingly so. The scene of Guido on the desolate shore, meeting with the dwarf cast up from the stormy sea is very effective.

The second story, The Mortal Immortal tells of the growing loneliness and despair felt by Winzy (who considers himself to be a young immortal, being only 323 years old) as all that he knows and loves passes away. This is a take on the Sorcerer's Apprentice motif and the most tragic in tone of the three stories.

The last story, The Evil Eye, is not Gothic, but would, I'm sure, have been received as rather exotic at the time of its original publication (1829). Set in Albania and Greece, this is a tale of sibling rivalry, vengeance and treachery, piracy, banditry and abduction. The unlikely coincidences are forgivable in such an engagingly-told story.

I liked the way Shelley switched the focus on characters as you're not at first sure where your sympathies should lie. I think it's good when authors skew your expectations and don't immediately give you everything on a plate. ( )
1 vote Michael.Rimmer | Mar 30, 2013 |
The first two stories are the best and are set firmly in the gothic horror cannon, tales of doppelgangers and immortality, filled with high emotion and evocative prose. The last is more of an adventure tale and I liked it a lot less. I found the style jarring, too much like a long list of rushed facts and so I was unable to connect with the theme of loss it was supposed to engender . Still overall the book was enjoyable but far too short to recommend you buy it. I love Heserpus books but they could have included more tales! ( )
  clfisha | Sep 18, 2012 |
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This is a book containing three short stories and should not be combined with editions of the short story only, nor with editions containing other stories. Contents:
The Transformation
The Mortal Immortal
The Evil Eye
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A macabre, sinister, and supernatural tale, Mary Shelley’s Transformation is a masterpiece of Gothic writing. Having squandered his wealth, Guido returns to claim the hand of the celestial Juliet, but finds himself censured by her father. Petulant at his chastisement, his Byronic temperament gets the better of him, and he is punished with banishment. As he plots his revenge, he witnesses a mighty tempest, and from the raging sea emerges a strange figure. Initially repelled by the dwarfish form before him, the true horror soon strikes him: he and the dwarf are one. As their identities become increasingly merged, Transformation takes its place in the history of Doppelg√§nger literature. It appears here with two other stories by Shelley: The Mortal Immortal and The Evil Eye. Novelist and short-story writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelleynbsp;is best known for Frankenstein.… (more)

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