Highlights In The Charts
Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors
Review by Arabella Petts
With a stunning oil painting-esque cover, Mellors’ Cleopatra and Frankenstein follows the relationship between Cleo; a young artist whose visa is quickly running out and Frank; a wealthy man twenty years her senior.
Although this is Mellors’ first novel, she has created a poignant and relatable novel about how spontaneous decisions and entering the unknown can shape our entire lives. The chapters switch between the protagonists, as well as some insight from their friends and relatives, as we hear the story of how the pair meet and instantly fall in love; the magic of their relationship (and the imminence of Cleo’s deportation) leading them to a very quick marriage. He offers her financial freedom and a chance to stay in America while she offers him a reason to cut back on his drinking and a chance to relive his youth.
As the story continues, Frank’s addiction to alcohol and Cleo’s own self-destructiveness are the very reasons for what will become the downfall of their relationship. Alongside their own issues, Cleo’s best friend is struggling with his gender identity and Frank’s financially dependent sister is relying on sugar daddies for money after being cut off. Cleopatra and Frankenstein highlights how a chance meeting between two strangers can turn your life upside down in irreversible ways.
The characters have a lot of depth. I felt as though they were well crafted, but a lot of them did not seem to fit in with each other. Some plot lines, such as Quinn’s gender identity, were delved into only to never be mentioned again, loosening the plot and making the characters’ chapters feel very random at times – I could have rearranged several of them without anything changing the story.
Ultimately, Mellors has written a great book for fans of modern-day romance novels, but perhaps not one for those who like to read a book with a solid plot.
Psychopaths Anonymous by Will Carver
Review by Jenna Tomlinson
Will Carver has an affinity for dark thrillers and Psychopaths Anonymous is no exception to this. The book’s main character, Maeve, an alcoholic murderess with a flair for the sarcastic, is an absorbing anti-hero. She’s a career woman, a feminist and fiercely independent. But she’s also a functioning alcoholic with a strong inclination towards chaos.
When we meet Maeve, she is coasting in life. She has a nice home, a good job and is attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but she recounts her life as a series of routines and calculations. She has a set routine for leaving the car and informs the reader she has done it so often she can complete all of the steps in one go. She knows how many calories are in each drink she consumes and so she plans her meals in accordance with these calories so as not to put on weight. Maeve is also relentlessly scathing towards those she feels are beneath her. She watches countless hours of reality TV, but loathes the people she watches. In her meetings, she is ruthless in her cynical and demeaning descriptions of the other attendees. Even during an appointment at a doctor’s office, she can’t help but cast a disparaging eye on an overweight man sitting in the waiting room, describing in detail how his weight disgusts her.
The book follows Maeve through a pivotal part of her life. After her AA meetings make her want to drink further, she sets up a similarly constructed group session – but for psychopaths. She recounts the “steps” within AA and how these are not working for her, in an attempt to arrive at a plan for her own group. But in the midst of it all, outside of her life of drinking and killing sprees, she meets Seth. Charming and elusive, Seth draws Maeve in and the two begin an insatiable relationship that adds to the number of Maeve’s addictions.
However, when Seth enters her life she has to balance her secret group with the pressures and progressions of a new relationship. Furthermore, not everyone in the group shares Maeve’s passion for secrecy and slowly the systems she has put in place start to unravel.
The book is clearly well thought out and the characters are nuanced and interesting. I enjoyed the book and thought Maeve’s critique of the AA system and its focus on religion was an intriguing premise – I could totally understand how someone who felt so disassociated from religion could lose faith in a system built on it. The book is an interesting, easy read with a clever premise and well-developed characters.