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Poor Things by Alasdair Gray
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Poor Things (original 1992; edition 2002)

by Alasdair Gray (Author)

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1,1042318,512 (3.91)43
Basis for the Major Motion Picture starring Emma Stone, Ramy Youssef, Mark Ruffalo, and Willem Dafoe, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. "Witty and delightfully written" (New York Times Book Review), Alasdair Gray's Poor Things echoes Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in this novel of a young woman freeing herself from the confines of the suffocating Victorian society she was created to serve. Winner of the Whitbread Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize In the 1880s in Glasgow, Scotland, medical student Archibald McCandless finds himself enchanted with the intriguing creature known as Bella Baxter. Supposedly the product of the fiendish scientist Godwin Baxter, Bella was resurrected for the sole purpose of fulfilling the whims of her benefactor. As his desire turns to obsession, Archibald's motives to free Bella are revealed to be as selfish as Godwin's, who claims her body and soul. But Bella has her own passions to pursue. Passions that take her to aristocratic casinos, low-life Alexandria, and a Parisian bordello, reaching an interrupted climax in a Scottish church. Exploring her station as a woman in the shadow of the patriarchy, Bella knows it is up to her to free herself--and to decide what meaning, if any, true love has in her life. "Gray has the look of a latter-day William Blake, with his extravagant myth-making, his strong social conscience, his liberating vision of sexuality and his flashes of righteous indignation tempered with scathing wit and sly self-mockery." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "This work of inspired lunacy effectively skewers class snobbery, British imperialism, prudishness and the tenets of received wisdom."--Publishers Weekly… (more)
Member:ChrisKubica
Title:Poor Things
Authors:Alasdair Gray (Author)
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2002), 318 pages
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Poor Things by Alasdair Gray (1992)

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» See also 43 mentions

English (22)  Italian (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
The positive - it is a reimagining of Frankenstein with a few great feminist & socialist thoughts.

However, this was so difficult to read - if I hadn’t seen the film first I would have DNFd this SO QUICKLY. there were a lot of problematic things about it (the movie eliminated most).
TBH I much prefer the narrative, characterisation and plot of the film - the linear narrative makes it far easier to understand & the character & plot changes also benefit the story.
I’d personally just watch the film - it’s a much better story. ( )
  spiritedstardust | Jun 1, 2024 |
Odd, occasionally glacial, but in the end incredible epistolary novel. Truly curious to see how it's going to work as a film, totally worth a read if ya like anarcho-humanistic weirdo historical fiction like Pynchon. Took me a bit to get through some of the bits but the narrative is super easy to follow and enjoyable as hell, loved the dedication to maintaining ambiguity through it all. ( )
  Amateria66 | May 24, 2024 |
Big nope. Thought the film adaptation looked smug and pretentious but defaulting to the novel didn't inspire me either, sadly. This is basically an old man's ranty rant about history and society disguised as a commentary on the treatment of women: 'You think you are about to possess what men have hopelessly yearned for throughout the ages: the soul of an innocent, trusting, dependent child inside the opulent body of a radiantly lovely woman.' Gray also crams every nineteenth century literary device known to man into first half of the book, before flipping the narrative to sneer at those Victorian tropes - and repeating the same old rants from a supposedly feminist perspective. Yawn. I'm glad Emma Stone and the costume designer got something out of the film, but I definitely won't be wasting any more time on Alisdair Gray's griping. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Apr 24, 2024 |
Poor Things by Alasdair Gray (336pp 1992)

Would I read more books by this author?
Most definitely.

Would I recommend this book?
Definitely.

To whom would I recommend this book?
It would have to be people who can stand a little weirdness and who can cut their way through the superficial carnal aspects of the book to see its real purpose and meaning.

Did this book inspire me to do anything?
Yes! I am planning a day in Glasgow to visit the main sites in the story. It will make an interesting excursion and give me a photo-journal opportunity.

I acquired this book in 2011 but have only gotten around to reading it now. I bought it while I was reading and loving “Lanark”. “Poor Things” has not disappointed. My reading it now was prompted by a friend who watched the Oscar winning film. This spurred me on to read the book before I watch the film.

Having loved Lanark I was expecting some weirdness. It was not as weird as I expected, but read like an historical fiction with one piece of Science Fiction at its heart. There is so much in the book I cannot see how a screen adaptation could possibly present all the content. My suspicion is that the film deals mostly with the sexual aspects of the story rather than with the primary focus of the book which is the presentation of political viewpoints and the promotion of political philosophies focused on improving the lot of the people rather than increasing the wealth of the wealthy. Comments by friends who have seen the film and reviews of the movie appear to support my suspicions. I intend to watch the film, but in my usual approach to screen adaptations I will not be complaining about how the film does not reflect the book, but rather enjoying the movie as something different from the book, but will be interested to see what was cut out of the story and what has been added in. Given the complexity of the main character I am not surprised it was an opportunity for Emma Stone to win an Oscar. I am looking forward to seeing her performance.

There are several themes to the story with a rather steamy thread running through the earlier parts of the book which, while the film may emphasise this, is primarily a means of hooking the reader to read on and then used as a vehicle to facilitate discussion on various political movements, their core tenets, and to present their impact on the population at large. Also presented are critiques of social norms that were, and still are, abhorrent to the sensitivities of the more liberal minded. It is a strongly feminist book so people should push through the misogyny presented in the early chapters to get through to the powerful messages that follow.

If I was to sum the story up in one sentence it would be:
“This is the life story of girl who experienced life in an accelerated fashion and grew into a determined woman who worked tirelessly to improve the lot of the poor through the advancement of medical practice and women’s rights.”

If I were to ignore the true messages of the book and simply describe it based on the superficial elements I could describe it as:
“The wife of Frankenstein was a nymphomaniac.”
( )
  pgmcc | Mar 15, 2024 |
It's almost criminal that Yorgos Lanthimos read this book about child-rearing, feminism, socialism, classism, and patriarchy and made a movie only about sexuality. I loved the movie but now am so angry that he removed the full human condition from it. Bella - Victoria was an intellectual, a philosopher, a feminist, a scientist, and a political practitioner, and Lanthimos made her into only a sexual being. What a missed opportunity. I would love to see a movie based on the whole book. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Mar 15, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
A witty sendup of the Victorian pantheon as Scottish novelist Gray masterfully demolishes those scientific, cultural, and social shibboleths that so comforted our forebears. Gray has not only pulled off a stylistic tour de force, but has slyly slipped in a stunning critique of the late-19th-century. A brilliant marriage of technique, intelligence, and art.
added by poppycocteau | editKirkus Reviews (Dec 15, 1992)
 

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FOR MY WIFE MORAG
TO SHE WHO MAKES MY LIFE WORTH LIVING
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The doctor who wrote this account of his early experiences died in 1911, and readers who know nothing about the daringly experimental history of Scottish medicine will perhaps mistake it for a grotesque fiction. Those who examine the proofs given at the end of this introduction will not doubt that in the final week of February 1881, at 18 Park Circus, Glasgow, a surgical genius used human remains to create a twenty-five-year ld woman. The local historian Michael Donnelly disagrees with me. It was he who salvaged the text which is the biggest part of the book, so I must say how he found it. -Introduction
Like most farm workers in those days my mother distrusted banks. When death drew near she told me her life-savings were in a tin trunk under the bed and muttered, "Take it and count it."

I did, and the sum was more than I had expected. She said, "Make something of yourself with it." -Chapter 1, Making Me
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Basis for the Major Motion Picture starring Emma Stone, Ramy Youssef, Mark Ruffalo, and Willem Dafoe, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. "Witty and delightfully written" (New York Times Book Review), Alasdair Gray's Poor Things echoes Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in this novel of a young woman freeing herself from the confines of the suffocating Victorian society she was created to serve. Winner of the Whitbread Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize In the 1880s in Glasgow, Scotland, medical student Archibald McCandless finds himself enchanted with the intriguing creature known as Bella Baxter. Supposedly the product of the fiendish scientist Godwin Baxter, Bella was resurrected for the sole purpose of fulfilling the whims of her benefactor. As his desire turns to obsession, Archibald's motives to free Bella are revealed to be as selfish as Godwin's, who claims her body and soul. But Bella has her own passions to pursue. Passions that take her to aristocratic casinos, low-life Alexandria, and a Parisian bordello, reaching an interrupted climax in a Scottish church. Exploring her station as a woman in the shadow of the patriarchy, Bella knows it is up to her to free herself--and to decide what meaning, if any, true love has in her life. "Gray has the look of a latter-day William Blake, with his extravagant myth-making, his strong social conscience, his liberating vision of sexuality and his flashes of righteous indignation tempered with scathing wit and sly self-mockery." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "This work of inspired lunacy effectively skewers class snobbery, British imperialism, prudishness and the tenets of received wisdom."--Publishers Weekly

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