Inspired by Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece, Catherine Bruton’s Following Frankenstein is a new adventure for middle grade readers that takes the themes of Frankenstein and crafts them into a story that is full of adventure, sacrifice, hope and love.
Maggie Walton is the daughter of Captain Robert Walton, the man who travelled with Victor Frankenstein to the Arctic in search of his escaped creation. Any fans of the original gothic novel will be just as delighted as I was to discover that Bruton has plotted her book to continue the story of the man whose letters were Shelley’s narrative device. When Frankenstein died his obsession with finding the Creature passed to Maggie’s father and we meet her just as he is about to set out on a new voyage to find what eluded Frankenstein.
Maggie is determined to save her father from this dangerous fixation so she smuggles herself onto his ship along with her pet mouse, Victor. Here Bruton makes another connection to a literary classic as this ship is a whaler named Moby Dick that is captained by a man named Ishmael. The captain soon discovers his stowaway, but this is just the beginning of Maggie’s adventures and she soon travels to the Arctic circle, onto New York and through America.
Following Frankenstein introduces us to a wealth of nineteenth century historical monsters and Maggie sees the poverty of the London dockyards, the exploitation of those who were enslaved in America, the theft of lands from the indigenous peoples and the cruelty shown towards those who were considered freaks at circus sideshows. But for every monster we meet, there are heroes who fight not only to help our protagonists but for much greater causes too.
I really enjoy Bruton’s writing style; she has created countless extraordinary landscapes and vivid environments for Maggie to explore. She clearly has a lot of fun describing human settlements and those who occupy them, but also unveils the most spectacular natural surroundings that offer their own beauty and dangers. From the icy tundra of the Arctic to the vibrant and exciting newly built New York, there is something wonderful and frightening in all these natural and manmade spaces. It is not difficult to compare the world Maggie inhabits with the Creature that Victor Frankenstein created and to argue that the natural world is just as dangerous as the things we create.
Ultimately, Bruton has written a book about family. It is about fatherhood and the relationships we have with our parents. It is also about choosing our own family and being accepted into the groups which whom we build our lives. This is a story about the things we do for the ones we love and finding the good in a scary world.
Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending a proof copy for review purposes.
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