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4.1 out of 5 stars14
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 8 May 2000
Fascinating, intelligent and entertaining. These are just some of the conclusions that I have come to in the year since I first read Poor Things. Is Baxter a man or a creation himself?Why does he have such bizarre eating habits? Similarly, is Bella quite the woman she believes herself to be? What happened to her daughter? Why can she not write using vowels? How does she learn to relate to the world around her? This is a very clever re-write of Shelly's Frankenstein, itself a text that is very concerned with issues of language and how we aquire it.That, however, is not all it is. It's also a really good romp around such key areas of examination such as class divide,feminist issues and Empire in the Victorian world of the Industrial Revolution .You be the detective sifting through the authors 'found' collection of journals and letters ( a classic Victorian writing device). Enjoy the artwork and take time afterwards to ponder what you have read. How can you ignore a novel in which the main female character (Bella) turns a noted philanderer into a Bible-bashing lunatic as a result of her insatiable nymphomania? I'm still thinking about what I've read and that doesn't happen often with me. A modern classic!
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on 27 February 2015
When the son of a prosperous tenant farmer, Archibald McCandless, uses his inheritance to train as a doctor, he's drawn to the side of eccentric Glasgow physician Godwin Baxter and his mysterious ward, Bella. A confused account of Bella's Frankenstein-style background and journey of self-discovery ensues. Gray presents himself as the editor of this novel, rather than its author, fictionalising the novel's origins as the discovery of a self-published account of a Victorian, Scottish Public Heath Officer. Poor Things is a fantastic tale in which a devastating critique of the late nineteenth century, specially the treatment of women, blends a picaresque narrative with gothic horror. Superbly written, this work demonstrates what is possible when speculative or alternative historical fiction is taken on by a literary master. The tale reads as literary steampunk, where the gothic novel is elevated to its full potential as a literary sub-genre. The ambiguous characters engage, delight, and disgust, the plot twists and surprises, and the ambiguous nature of the female protagonists refutation of events send the reader into speculative spins. Alisdair Gray richly deserves to stand beside Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns as one of the great Scots wordsmiths of all time. Poor Things is one of the finest works of Scottish literature of the twentieth century.
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on 28 September 2011
This is a kooky story, told with warmth and charm. Gray's imagination is never less than fecund and highly flavoured, his characters are so real you can smell them. Another reviewer mentioned that there's a distinct flavour of Scot, but it doesn't get in the way of the text so don't let it put you off. He reminds me of Anthony Burgess in terms of his sense of fun, confidence and style, and the way he will make a story into something original and lovely of his own. Enjoy the ride.
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on 26 April 2013
Lovable characters, intriguing plot, unusual topic - what else do you want for a good read? One of the very few recent uni reads I have actually really enjoyed.
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on 6 October 2011
This is a strange little book. Bizarre characters and an even more bizarre plotline, would on most occasions be a big turnoff for me. Yet I found myself unable to put this book down, and a month after first reading it I found myself reading it again!
Quirky Characters, and a certain depth of feeling, combine to instill within the reader a certain warmth. I honestly can't put my finger on it as to why I enjoyed 'poor things' quite as much as I did? But it is certainly a book I would recommend.
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on 16 March 2010
Behind a front of Victorian correctness is a book of abandon and excess, both in its content and its style. Gray concocts a story that holds the attention (nearly) all the way , then repeatedly undermines his own narrative and forces you to re-evaluate it several times. Even after several reads there are still questions in my mind. Is Godwin himself a "surgical fabrication"? Does Godwin create Bella to be his own bride? Is all that careful, liberal education just part of the grooming process that will make him acceptable to her? And what about the seemingly innocuous Mrs Dinwiddie hovering in the background? What role did/does she play in Sir Colin's bizarre experiments?

Fascinating - and if you don't like it you'll soon know.
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on 24 January 2015
Thought provoking
Credible or incredible but couldn't put it down!
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on 26 March 2016
This is a really strange book, but very enjoyable
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on 11 April 2011
This book is totally different to what I normally read but having picked it up and read a few pages in an office I had to keep reading. Poor Things
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on 13 April 2013
Very well written political novel , with lots of intertexual references to other Scottish novels, history & culture ; wrapped up in a reasonable ,but deliberately derivative, plot.
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