Re-presenting Orkney in Kate Horsley’s The Monster’s Wife
ate Horsley’s The Monster’s Wife (2014) is a re-writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Almost entirely set in Orkney, the story re-imagines an alternative plot, where Victor Frankenstein succeeds in creating the female companion demanded by his first creature. Depicting the archipelago according to the Romantic aesthetics (and stereotypes) of post-Ossian Scotland, Shelley famously tags the sublime horror of Victor’s plan through a reference to Orkney’s ‘desolate and appalling landscape’. Evocatively written from the point of view of Orkney-native Oona, The Monster’s Wife subverts Shelley’s original text on several levels, whilst sharing with it an anxious response to unethical scientific experimentation. Significantly, the source of horror, far from being located in Orkney, is identified with the pollution and human/animal waste Victor brings with him, and which spoils the archipelago’s natural ecosystem. No longer informed by the discourse of abjection, Orkney becomes a scenery that is simultaneously uncannily haunted by its own past, but also intriguingly open to the marvellous possibilities that its Nordic-influenced lore lends it. No longer ‘insular’, the liquid boundaries of the archipelago facilitate encounters and movement, pointing to a dynamic sense of identity and belonging.
Monica Germanà, University of Westminster, UK