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Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Archibald McCandless M.D., Scottish Public Health Officer [Paperback]

Alasdair Gray
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Book Description

March 1994 A Harvest Book
Set in and around Glasgow and the Meditteranean in the early 1880s, this unusual novel describes the love lives of two Scottish doctors and a 25-year-old woman who has been created from human remains by one of them. Winner of the 1992 Whitbread Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize. Illustrations.

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The full title of this work, Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Archibald McCandless M.D. Scottish Public Health Officer, reflect a bit of wacky genius at work here. Someone named Alasdair Gray has found a memoir supposedly of a 19th-century public health officer in Glasgow. The truth of the memoir is suspect, nevertheless Gray manages to change it and then lose it. And that's just the backdrop. Inside the memoir is the story of McCandless, an acquaintance named Godwyn Bysshe Baxter who takes a suicide victim, gives her the brain of her unborn child to create a promiscuous and brutal girlfriend. The book, which won the 1992 Guardian Fiction Prize, takes off from there.

From Publishers Weekly

Winner of the 1992 Whitbread Prize, Scottish writer Gray's ( Something Leather ) black comedy uses a science-fiction-like premise to satirize Victorian morals. Ostensibly the memoirs of late-19th-century Glasgow physician Archibald McCandless, the narrative follows the bizarre life of oversexed, volatile Bella Baxter, an emancipated woman and a female Frankenstein. Bella is not her real name; as Victorian Blessington, she drowned herself to escape her abusive husband, but a surgeon removed the brain from the fetus she was carrying and placed it in her skull, resucitating her. The revived Bella has the mental age of a child. Engaged to marry McCandless, she chloroforms him and runs off with a shady lawyer who takes her on a whirlwind adventure, hopping from Alexandria to Odessa to a Parisian brothel. As her brain matures, Bella develops a social conscience, but her rescheduled nuptials to Archie are cut short when she is recognized as Victoria by her lawful husband, Gen. Sir Aubrey Blessington. In an epilogue dated 1914, cranky idealist Victoria McCandless, M.D., a suffragette, Fabian socialist, pacifist and advocate of birthing stools, pokes holes in her late husband Archie's narrative. Illustrated with Gray's suitably macabre drawings, this work of inspired lunacy effectively skewers class snobbery, British imperialism, prudishness and the tenets of received wisdom. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Oct. 22 2002
By Blaid
I just finished the book a few hours ago and it's the best book I've read in a while. "Poor Things" is the story of a lonely doctor, Godwin, who reanimates a beautiful woman's body who commited suicide (in a unique Frankenstein-esque fashion). Godwin's creation was meant to be for his own selfish desire but like every Frankenstein story it goes horribly awry. The books goes into detail bringing you into points of view from every character, not letting you forgot what happened, and using excellent foreshadowing. Make sure you read the extra writings at the end of the book to get the full impact of Alisdair Gray's skills.
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