Tuesday, 26 January 2016


Mary Shelley
Hesperus Press

Surely never such had existed before - a misshapen dwarf, with squinting eyes, distorted features, and a body deformed, till it became a horror to behold.
A macabre, sinister and supernatural tale, Mary Shelley's Transformation is a masterpiece of Gothic writing. It is accompanied by The Mortal Immortal and The Evil Eye. , two further stories of the supernatural, both of which display the perfection of Shelley's literary craft.

Whilst 'Transformation' is the title of this lovely little book it is also the first of the three short stories that make up this slim volume from Hesperus Press.

'Transformation' - the story - is a short redemptive tale that tells the story of Guido, an arrogant and profligate young man who returns to his home in Genoa in penury to claim the hand of the daughter of a rich merchant.  When rejected by the kindly father due to his refusal to calm his reckless ways Guido fights back and is eventually cast out into exile.  Here he meets a deformed dwarf who offers him a bargain that may be heaven sent or then again may be from the other place.

'Transformation' - the story not the collection - is written in a dated and flamboyant style which I think would have been a bit of a chore to wade through had it been longer but at just 23 pages it made for an interesting experience.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Following on from the title piece is a much more straight forward and plainly written tale in the shape of 'The Mortal Immortal'.  This one tells the tale of an alchemists apprentice who inadvertently drinks an elixir of immortality thinking it to be a cure for love. 

I could happily have read an entire novel of this.  It's beautifully written and tightly held so that even at this short length it feels complete whilst also having an open ending that leaves you craving more.

The third story is an exhausting affair called 'The Evil Eye'.  Here in an absolute cascade of locations and various exotic terminology we are told the tale of Dimitri of the Evil Eye and his search for his kidnapped daughter.

The story absolutely hares along and manages to condense a novels worth of plot into a mere 30 pages.  It is, of course, almost completely unsatisfying as at no point do you get to feel anything other than the most fleeting of emotions towards the various characters before they've rushed off and done something else a hundred miles and two weeks away.  About halfway through I had the revelation that it felt like one of Neal Stephenson's 'Baroque Cycle' novels condensed into 30 pages.

I must say though that I thoroughly enjoyed these three stories and having never read 'Frankenstein' I was very curious as to how she wrote and what her stories were like.  I was pleasantly surprised and my desire to read more has been piqued.

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