Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

1992 Costa Winner

Poor Things by Alasdair Gray


Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Length: 320 pages

About: Story of true love and scientific daring

Style: 1st person

Where: Scotland (Glasgow)

When: 1880- 1914


Publisher’s synopsis:

One of Alasdair Gray's most brilliant creations, Poor Things is a postmodern revision of Frankenstein that replaces the traditional monster with Bella Baxter--a beautiful young erotomaniac brought back to life with the brain of an infant. Godwin Baxter's scientific ambition to create the perfect companion is realized when he finds the drowned body of Bella, but his dream is thwarted by Dr. Archibald McCandless's jealous love for Baxter's creation. The hilarious tale of love and scandal that ensues would be "the whole story" in the hands of a lesser author (which in fact it is, for this account is actually written by Dr. McCandless). For Gray, though, this is only half the story, after which Bella (a.k.a. Victoria McCandless) has her own say in the matter. Satirizing the classic Victorian novel, Poor Things is a hilarious political allegory and a thought-provoking duel between the desires of men and the independence of women, from one of Scotland's most accomplished authors.



I clenched my teeth and fists to stop them biting and scratching these clever men who want no care for the helpless sick small, who use religions and politics to stay comfortably superior to all that pain: who make religions and politics, excuses to spread misery with fire and sword and how could I stop all this? I did not know what to do.




Gray's ingenious structuring supports these bundles of opposed ideas with ease and humour, and he gives the book the high Victorian virtue of page- turning, what-next excitement. It is a brilliant piece of work and, given all the pictures and things, remarkably good value too.

To see full review click here

The Independent, Hugo Barnacle, 12th August 1992


Not so good:

Gray's tireless pursuit of mischief may leave us flagging over the longer distance, but jokes like these - visionary, ornate and outrageous - are its unique local rewards. Poor Things is full of them.

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The Independent, Mick Ilmah, 30th August 1992


About the author

Alasdair Gray (born 28 December 1934) is a Scottish writer and artist. His most acclaimed work is his first novel, Lanark, published in 1981 and written over a period of almost 30 years.  His father had been wounded in the First World War and worked at the time in a factory, while his mother worked in a shop. During the Second World War, Gray was evacuated to Perthshire and then Lanarkshire, experiences which he drew on in his later fiction. The family lived on a council estate, and Gray received his education from a combination of state education, (at Whitehill Secondary School), public libraries, and the BBC: "the kind of education British governments now consider useless, especially for British working class children", as he later commented. He studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1952 to 1957, and taught there from 1958 to 1962. It was as a student that he first began what would become the novel Lanark.

After his graduation, Gray worked as a scene and portrait painter, as well as an independent artist and writer. His first plays were broadcast on radio and television in 1968. Between 1972 and 1974, he participated in a writing group organised by Philip Hobsbaum, which also included James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Tom Leonard, Aonghas MacNeacail and Jeff Torrington. From 1977 to 1979, he was Writer in Residence at Glasgow University. In 2001, he became, with Tom Leonard and James Kelman, joint Professor of the Creative Writing programme at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.

Gray illustrates his books himself, and has produced many murals as well as paintings. One of his longest-lasting murals can be seen in the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in the West End of Glasgow, and more recently in Hillhead Underground station.


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Page turner







Age guide: 12






Books by same author:

    Lanark (1981)
    1982, Janine (1984)
    The Fall of Kelvin Walker (1985)
    Something Leather (1990)
    McGrotty and Ludmilla (1990)
    A History Maker (1994)
    Mavis Belfrage (1996)
    Old Men In Love (2007)

























































2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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