I'm a huge fan of Catherine Bruton's 'No Ballet Shoes in Syria' so I was really thrilled and intrigued to read 'Following Frankenstein' (published in October), which is a children's sequel to Mary Shelley's classic. And I'm pleased to say it's a rollicking, thoughtful adventure that is wonderfully unpredictable and intelligently written. Like 'No Ballet Shoes in Syria', 'Following Frankenstein' is a rumination on identity, on finding your place in spite of difference and the friendships that can cross boundaries.
Maggie Walton's father is desperate to track down Frankenstein's monster in one last voyage to the Arctic with Maggie in tow. But what they discover is unexpected: not Frankenstein's monster, but his son. Capturing the monster's son, Maggie and her father find themselves in New York, parading Kata, as he becomes to be known, as a scientific freak of nature. Maggie can't accept Kata's treatment but what will she do to free this boy - not a monster - as hostile forces call for his blood?
From Europe to the Arctic to New York and Canada, this is an immersive, unexpected sequel that follows its classic original with ingenuity and faithfulness to its source material. Bruton brilliantly brings to life this time period and its various settings with aplomb, delivered skillfully through Maggie's distinctive, aware and compassionate voice. Unexpected and unpredictable really are words to describe this - and in a totally great way! To take Frankenstein's monster's son and place him in a theatre in New York is genius, but then displacing him and Maggie in the North American wilderness, coming into contact with indigenous communities is just amazing. It brings to the fore key themes of alienation and difference - that at its heart Frankenstein's monster and his son are like refugees, trying to find their place in a harsh world where difference is a matter of prejudice, horror and hate rather than kindness and love. I loved Maggie's wisdom and courage to defend Kata. And I really enjoyed the depiction of Kata and his unique vulnerabilities. Bruton manages to balance all of this with a deft touch and it is quite unlike anything you might have read recently.
Thank you to Nosy Crow for my proof copy to review. I will certainly be singing 'Following Frankenstein's praises come the autumn!