Today is publication day for Cleopatra and Frankenstein, the debut novel by Coco Mellors. As someone who is a fan of books which delve right to the heart of relationships in all their complexity, I was keen to discover more about Cleo and Frank, and the way in which their relationship changes through the years.
Their story begins on New Year’s Eve in New York City, in which a chance meeting between two strangers sparks the beginning of an unconventional romance. There is a significant age gap between the pair, with Frank being in his early-mid forties whilst Cleo is in her mid-twenties, but the pair immediately form a connection, and despite their differing ages and backgrounds this is a connection that proves powerful enough to change the course of their lives as they soon become married. But of course, as with any relationship there are challenges to be faced, and the journey ahead for Cleo and Frank is not always a straight forward one as they navigate married life together and learn more about each other and the ways in which they are different. Through their story, Mellors explores the ups and downs of relationships, not just those of the title characters but the relationships of those around them, and the way in which the lives of those who live in Cleo and Frank’s orbit become entangled.
Mellors grew up in London and New York and its clear she has drawn on her experiences to expertly craft the world in which Cleo and Frank reside and there is a rawness and vulnerability to their characters alongside their vibrancy which made for a compelling read. The New York setting was also vividly depicted, and through this portrayal of their party lifestyle I felt it also explored themes of social class and societal expectation. Particularly with Cleo being a young, British artist, and her new husband being an older man in a more corporate role which further intensifies those feelings of vulnerability that can emerge, as the pair battle with their perception of themselves, as well as the way that those on the periphery of their relationship perceive them. Whilst the novel explores love at its most exciting and devastating, it is not without moments of lightness and Mellors brings humour and wit to the characters voices which made for an enjoyable read, and it was a story that captured my attention throughout as I was invested in these characters and how their journey would develop over time.
With Cleopatra and Frankenstein being a book getting to the heart of relationships I have seen it compared to Sally Rooney but in Cleo and Frank Coco Mellors has formed vibrant characters and a world entirely of its own that I am sure will be a big hit with readers wanting to immerse themselves in this tender and honest portrayal of love.
Cleopatra and Frankenstein was published on 17th February 2022 in the UK by 4th Estate Books, with thanks to Matt Clacher for providing a copy for review.