By: Róise Nic an Bheatha
Are you looking for a ‘90s Scottish take on Mary Shelley’s cult classic Frankenstein? Yes?! Then you’re lucky you stumbled upon Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things. Be warned, this book is not for the poor-hearted: expect a grotesque, gothic, genre-subverting read. Gorge yourself on a fast-paced narrative that is told through so many perspectives that you must take on the role of a detective to decipher the truth. The fact that Gray borrows from pre-existing genres only enhances the novel’s Frankenstein feel — Poor Things is a monstrous novel that is essentially constructed from other books’ literary body parts. You do get a sense of déjà vu while reading Poor Things, however, Alasdair Gray manages to maintain a very post-modern style despite the book being set during the Victorian period.
There is a reason this is one of Scotland’s top contemporary novels. A mind-blowing twist at the end of the novel will leave you reading and rereading it in an attempt to understand the ambiguity that Poor Things ends on. Therefore, reading this book once is simply not an option. Poor Things will plague the imagination long after the last word, as the reader is left with unreliable narrators, contradictions, and ambiguity surrounding the truth. Poor Things will make you paranoid, and will have you asking: how biased are we as readers? And how can we ever know the truth in a novel? Gray very much forces the reader to interrogate their role within this novel. As a result, this may cause you to have a minor existential crisis; but I assure you, Poor Things is worth it!