Cleopatra and Frankenstein is a clever and thoughtful examination of relationships in a particular social milieu, for the most part in New York. However, I don’t like the marketing strategy of ‘move over Sally Rooney’. There is room for more than one writer to examine modern love, friendship and society and whilst the comparison works to some extent, it doesn’t always work in Mellors’ favour whose debut should be given the space to form its own territory.
Cleopatra and Frankenstein is a compelling read. Cleo is a young British artist studying in New York, Frank is a wealthy forty-something who owns his own up-and-coming advertising agency. Cleo’s visa is about to run out…
I was so excited about reading this book having enjoyed both of the previous novels of this ‘involuntary trilogy’, Die, My Love and Feebleminded. Harwicz’s prose, and this must be partly due to the fabulous translations in this instance by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff, is like a drug – it pulls you under and along, compelling through the mind of this frighteningly desperate, once-model mother whose teenage son rolls on top of her in his sleep. There is a lawlessness to the way thought, desire, violence and love rage through the book.
It’s a short book, but it blazes. I read it all in one go like a glutton and wanted to start all over again.
The relationships are not healthy, either familial ones or those with education, work or societal and governmental law. It is not an easy book to read in that it pushes you viscerally against the violent edge of emotion.
If this is the kind of work you like, you will be as hooked as I am.
We begin with Miri, who describes what it is like since her wife returned from a lost research dive in a submarine. We follow her experience as her wife, Leah, spends more and more time in the bath.
Whatever way you think the story might go from this brief initial introduction, it is unlikely that it will quite follow your imagined trajectory and this, combined with the wonderfully eerie descriptions of the world beneath the waves, makes Our Wives Under the Sea a very pleasing and absorbing read. The sea and its depths haunt Leah and the reader. What is really down there? Why has the research company she was working for gone to ground? What were they really looking for down there, and how ethical was their dive?
I should have published this review weeks ago when the novel was fresh, but it’s testament to the writing that I can still vividly see the last few scenes from both Miri and Leah’s perspectives. Like a mermaid’s wish in reverse, this novel questions how life crawled from the ocean and what it might be like to go back. It insistently presses the unknown down like the fathomless weight of the ocean squeezing the breath from your thoughts, the blood from your flesh. It’s a great read. It comes out on the 3rd of March 2022, so pre-order it now.