The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

by Kiersten White
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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein (Delacorte Press 2018) by Kiersten White is a re-telling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, the orphan of a mother who died in childbirth. Elizabeth was rescued from abusive foster care by Victor Frankenstein's family and given to Victor as a child companion in Geneva.

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The novel picks up as Victor goes away to college to the University of Ingolstadt. Because his family saved her and she was adopted for his sake, Elizabeth feels useless and vulnerable without Victor. She travels to Europe to find him, accompanied by the family governess, Justine. Justine—who takes care of Victor's younger brothers, Ernest and William—serves as a sort of interlocutor to whom Elizabeth tells the story of how she was initially adopted at the age of five and played with Victor as a child. Elizabeth recalls that, from a young age, Victor was in awe of the power of nature.

With the help of another woman named Mary, a bookseller who is an acquaintance of Victor, Elizabeth and Justine track down Victor and learn about a creature (of Victor's creation) who appears to want to destroy Elizabeth. Back in Geneva, William is found dead and Justine is presumed guilty, though the murder is believed to have been committed by the creature.

One the eve of her wedding to Victor, Elizabeth realizes that Victor himself was the culprit. Moreover, Victor killed Henry (a childhood friend) in order to make the creature. When Elizabeth defends herself against Victor, he has her locked away in an insane asylum. Victor is obsessed with Elizabeth and plans to kill her in order to preserve her for himself.

Meanwhile, the surviving characters—Mary, Elizabeth, and the creature himself—join forces to stop Victor's evil machinations. The creature is now named Adam and, in the end, becomes a valued member of Elizabeth's family in Geneva. The novel ends with Elizabeth finally feeling liberated from Victor's oppressive obsession with her as well as her dependence on him (a revealed psychopath).

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