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[232] Gods and Monsters – Christopher Bram


He screws up everything Clay’s been taught to feel about the world, and yet Clay does not want to avoid him. It’s like he wants to be confused, which makes Clay feel oddly guilty.” [189]

In this novel Christopher Bram reconstructs the last days of the once-famous James Whale, who directed Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. Although surviving a stroke that doesn’t impair his mobility, the director who lives in retirement is suffers olfactory hallucination. More so than death, he is afraid to wake up with his mind in pieces, for it has betrayed him for so long that it cannot regain his trust. He has taken fancy of his gardener, Clay Boone, who has become his sole companion with whom he can talk about his past, which has been haunting him.

So what if the guy is a homo, as long as he keeps his hands to himself? But accepting that, knowing it and accepting it, feels just as wrong to Clay, passive and cowardly. [176]

As Clay becomes more assured that the old man is not pawing on his skin, he finds himself being admitted to Whale’s harrowing past. The old man has a secret agenda for his confident. I understand that Gods and Monsters aspires to morph the horror and atrocities of the First World War into a horror movie. On the surface the novel also explores gay issues in 1950s Hollywood, where stereotype is invincible. But the flow of the novel is as snarled as the director’s mind, which is slowly giving in to senility and delirium. The appearances of Elsa Lanchester, Greta Garbo, Charles Laughton, George Cukor, Princess Margaret and Elizabeth Taylor in this novel unfortunately don’t compensate for the slow and somewhat disjointed story-line. Bram has managed, however, to fashion a love story of Whale and his obsession with his handsome yardman out of the grim material of Whale’s suicide. I would have enjoyed reading it more if Bram would pick up the pace sooner than 70% into the book instead of makng loops.

270 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

18 Responses

  1. I have never read this book and your review makes it sound interesting enough, but I’m not sure I would actually want to read it. I did see the movie version of this book and I do remember that I enjoyed it – mainly because Ian Mckellen was in it and I love his work!

  2. Nah. Don’t need snarled with the distractions I have swirling around my head these days. Wasn’t this a movie not long ago? (IMDb says yes! In 1998.)

  3. I remember the movie with hunky Brendan Fraser. The book is on my shelf and yet to be read. After reading your review, I’m going to dust it off and have a look.

  4. Too bad the book isn’t more compelling. If I recall correctly, the movie version of the book was critically acclaimed. I usually find the opposite to be true…I like the book much better than the movie!

  5. There’s a film version of this, no? I saw it a few years back and really liked it! Too bad that the book is such a slow start!

  6. I’ve had a book of his sitting on my shelf for a while for this same exact reason. Every time I pick it up, it’s always incredibly slow, in a not pleasant meandering way.

  7. I had a similar experience with a different book by Braum. I really wanted to like it, but it just never got going.

    The movie for Gods and Monsters is wonderful. If you’ve not seen it, you really should.

  8. Thanks for a brief look into this man’s life. I’ve never heard of him until your post.

  9. Nadia:
    It’s interesting but I wish I have enjoyed it more.

  10. Sandy:
    I put it down a few times become it was just so slow. Then I had this sudden fit that I almost threw it across the room! That I managed to finish and didn’t hate it too much still amaze me! 🙂

  11. Rob:
    I’m glad my review still manages to give the book a push. 🙂

  12. Kathleen:
    It’s a bit less exciting compared to the other books I have read recently. I mean, Rebecca and The Woman in White are hard to compete. I heard the movie is much better!

  13. Amy Reads Good Books:
    I am going to check out the film!

  14. lena:
    This is the first one of his that I have trouble reading. I absolutely enjoyed Exiles in America and Gossips. Do you have these two? 🙂

  15. CBJames:
    I’m hoping to watch the film. It’s a rare situation that the few people I have spoken with prefer the movie over the book. That’s quite something! 🙂

  16. Staci:
    James Whale or Christopher Bram? 🙂

  17. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

    – Marc Shaw

  18. […] annoying farce called Valeria’s Last Stand. Out of the 5 Christopher Bram books I read, Gods and Monsters really fell short—it was disappointing. Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day also […]

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