Book Review | Frankenstein in Baghdad

Well, long time no see.

I hit a bit of a reading slump this past month, plus got busier than ever with my work, so finishing this novel took probably three times longer than I had hoped. Nevertheless, I finished it at last!

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi is a novel set in Iraq in 2005. A man named Hadi builds a man out of body parts, and it comes to life. When strange murders start occurring throughout the city, tensions rise even further. Meanwhile, a woman named Elishva longs for her son, presumed dead for years, to come home. And then a man—or what looks like a man—with his face appears on her doorstep.

There are several plot lines going on, which all interweave and diverge throughout the novel. Some of the characters I was invested in, like Elishva, Hadi, and the Whatsitsname, but others didn’t really interest me at all. It was hard for me to keep track of who was who (though I’ll admit that might have been partially due to it taking me so long to read this).

I also found the plot to be a little meandering some of the time, largely because of the multiple plot lines. And I was expecting there to be more Frankenstein-related elements. What was there was good; I was most interested in the adaptation of the creature into modern Iraq, but there wasn’t enough to satisfy me.

Honestly, this creature’s story was extremely intriguing—he’s made of body parts, just as the one from Shelley’s novel, but his motivation and reason for existing is so clever and original. I wish we had explored that in more detail, because the statements about the uselessness and often cyclical nature of violence and war was the best part of this book. But the narrative kept focusing on other plot lines, which I felt were less important or compelling.

In the end, Frankenstein in Baghdad is fairly well-written, with a few decent characters and a fascinating core plot. However, it suffers from too many less developed side characters and subplots, so that I lost the overall flow and didn’t end up getting as much out of this as I wanted to.

Overall rating: 7/10

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