... tantalizing but blithe ... In what I’m worried is not a coincidence, the book’s clearest outsiders are two of the non-WASPs: brainy, unattractive Eleanor, the anti-Cleo, and Santiago, the overweight, unpartnered Peruvian. It’s hard not to think of them as magical minorities, helping the messy beautiful white people see themselves more deeply ... The relationships themselves rarely feel lived-in ... Internal emotions are described in similar ways — voice-overs clumped at the ends of chapters sharing how a character had 'really' been feeling ... Maybe this comes down to a lack of social context. The servers who support the characters’ lifestyles are barely remarked upon. The homeless or the 'gypsy' begging in the street are objects of distaste. And the voyage of discovery is taken along a river of self, with society and its greater problems hidden away along the banks. With the exceptions of Eleanor and Santiago, Mellors’ characters ignore the outside world. It isn’t clear whether the author intends this as social critique ... This is Mellors’ debut novel, and it’s clear that she knows a world built on flash and substances (but not substance) is bound to crumble. She has written some extraordinary sentences and shows a great talent for dialogue. And she cannily sets Gen X artists who found a way to combine art with commerce against millennials who were raised to grasp at shiny objects that wound up beyond their reach ... There’s nothing wrong with writing books that are ripe for adaptation...But the type of enlightenment presented in certain novels, in which easy access to money makes chasing one’s art a matter only of finding oneself, ignores a world on fire with chaos and inequality. And it tends not to make for great TV either.
... remarkably assured and sensitive ... The novel’s somber stretches, wide cast of characters, and cross sections of New York social spheres strongly evoke Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, but Mellors also cultivates a sprightlier style that keeps the novel’s familiar tropes from feeling clichéd or reducing her characters to types. (Think of Armistead Maupin or Laurie Colwin in a moodier register.) She’s playful with characterization and voice; Eleanor’s sections are distinctively written in the first-person, with a young writer’s pitch-perfect brashness and anxiety. And she describes parties, workplaces, apartments, and familial dynamics with impressive sophistication. She has a knack for crisp, witty summaries ... But the humor doesn’t overwhelm the melancholy heart of the story: At its core, it’s a novel about how love and lovers are easily misinterpreted and how romantic troubles affect friends and family ... A canny and engrossing rewiring of the big-city romance.
... involving if strained ... Mellors leavens this marital Sturm und Drang with a satirical portrait of present-day New York life. Some of it lands ... Her winning sections achieve the mix of wit, pathos, and romance the rest strives to attain. The tone and intrigue can feel a bit scattered, but an enticing aura glows at this work’s heart.
Unless you’re Peter Pan, it’s not so cute never to grow up. And the characters in Coco Mellors’ Cleopatra and Frankenstein are not Peter Pan. They’re stunted pseudo-adults who seem incapable of achieving maturity or even displaying empathy. When they finally do, the cost is so steep, the damage so extensive, and the page count so high, it’s difficult to know if the destination was worth the journey. For the reader, that is ... Taken as individuals, it’s strangely hard to know either main character ... The domestic drudgery, even if it’s realistic — or because it is — is awfully tedious. Show me an argument I and my fellow marrieds haven’t lived! ... And the pathos, well, it’s tough to take when you don’t like anyone ... The remainder of the book feels finally rendered in color. Most of the characters grow into real people, and those who cannot are left behind. It’s a satisfying conclusion, but a reader must weigh the journey against the payoff. Then again, maybe I’m just a dull adult who doesn’t appreciate how great it is to do coke in a restaurant bathroom.