Book recs: ‘Cleopatra and Frankenstein’ features unique concept but falls depressingly short


Cleopatra and Frankenstein presents a unique dynamic but falls flat in some areas.

Gianna Cocovinis, Staff Writer

I recently sat down to read “Cleopatra and Frankenstein” by Coco Mellors. Originally, I was hesitant to read this book. The title alone made it seem like some kiddish story following two infamous characters whose stories we all know like the back of our hand, but was I wrong! I do want to warn though that this book deals with several triggering contents, such as depression, alcoholism, suicide and addiction. 

The story starts off on New Year’s Eve, when a young artist Cleo has moved to New York from London in the pursuit of an art career and meets a guy named Frank that is well into his forties and runs his own ad agency. In a whirlwind romance, the two characters decide to forgo any semblance of casual dating and marry only after six months. The rest of the story follows the aftermath of their impulsive decision and shows the slow deterioration of their relationship as two people that were once madly in love struggle to deal with their own internal issues. 

I have mixed feelings about this book; on one hand, I was really blown away by certain passages, it was like the words were being taken right out of my head. I also thought the author had a unique writing style and didn’t adhere to traditional forms of narration, using almost a poetic style that made it a unique reading experience. However, some of the devices she used, like symbolism and metaphors, felt like they were going right over my head. There were certain points where I was thinking back to past English classes, trying to connect the symbolism for the color blue or red or whatnot.  

With a name referencing two of the most mysterious, iconic characters in literary history, I thought this would be a bit more engaging, but like I said, there were some parts of this book I couldn’t wade through. Possibly a redeeming part of this story were the characters. While we predominantly followed Cleo and Frank, we were introduced to a diverse cast that are complex and tortured and had plenty of problems of their own that I enjoyed following like the drama hound that I am. Going from the wild, outrageous things that were going on in their lives to checking back into Cleo and Frank’s sad chapters was a little disheartening, and it just kind of brought down the tone of the book to something sad and hopeless.  

Ultimately, I wanted more out of this book. I was ready to be blown away by it, but I was only given brief moments of good parts and a lot of confusion that made me feel like maybe I’m not adult enough for this adult fiction genre stuff. It definitely left an impression, but it was kind of in a “cool in theory, botched in execution” type of deal. With the summer coming, I’m hoping to read some light, fluffy contemporaries to keep me going, and I will definitely come back with recommendations for all the standouts.