AUTHOR: Mary Shelley
PUBLISHED: Originally published 1818, my edition published 1999
MY RATING: 4/5
*Synopsis taken from Goodreads*
Begun when the author was only eighteen and conceived from a nightmare, Frankenstein is the deeply disturbing story of a monstrous creation which has terrified and chilled readers since its first publication in 1818. The novel has thus seared its way into the popular imagination while establishing itself as one of the pioneering works of modern science fiction.
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“You are my creator, but I am your master; – obey!”I rarely, if ever, include any quotes in my book reviews but when I read this one I made a point of writing it down so I wanted to share it with you.
Frankenstein is undoubtedly a classic. It’s cemented itself in both the classic literary canon and in modern popular culture, and for good reason. You’d find it difficult to find somebody who has not heard of the book, or indeed is not familiar with the image of the monster from the tale. Therefore, prior to reading this I was pretty confident of what the story would entail. However, whilst I knew the basic premise of the book I hadn’t read it or watched any screen adaptations so I suppose I was going in somewhat blind. I have to admit that I was more than a little surprised with how events unfolded, this was not the book that I was expecting it to be, and that resulted in both enjoyment and disappointment. I certainly had a lot to think about when I finished reading it.
Firstly, let me start with what I didn’t like so I can get that out of the way. The pacing of the first half of the book was really rather slow in my opinion. Perhaps I was just keen to get to the action but I must admit I felt a little bored at times. Incidentally it was also a surprise that it is only towards the midway point that we really experience the monster, prior to this the focus is firmly on Frankenstein himself, and his increasingly fragile mental state. Whilst this was important, as I said I felt it dragged on a little too much.
Following on from this, let me talk (or maybe rant) about the character of Victor Frankenstein for just a moment. I have to say that he is one of the most frustrating characters I have ever come across in any book – which was somewhat problematic for me as a reader given how big a part he plays in the story. For me he was just far too preoccupied with himself, to the point that he was almost oblivious to the pain that others were feeling. Also, don’t get me started on his cowardly behaviour with regards the monster, let’s not forget that he created this being and rather than deal with what he had caused to exist his approach instead was to firmly bury his head in the sand. I actually found him to be a bit childish, thinking that he could just run away and then this problem would disappear. I also don’t want to go too much into it because I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone that hasn’t read it, but, the outcome for Justine and the part that Frankenstein plays in it really left a bitter taste in my mouth, and helped cement my dislike for him.
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Moving on, let me share with you what I did like. Firstly, there is no denying that Shelley is a master wordsmith. Her vocabulary and description is phenomenal, and her use of imagery is pure perfection. This alone was enough to keep me reading.
The monster – what a complex character he turned out to be! We get to follow his journey as he tries to navigate life and emotions in ways that are strikingly similar to how a human would. He is a character that you expect to hate, and don’t get me wrong some of his actions are abhorrent but this adds to his complexity. In a matter of pages you go from despising him to feeling sorry for him. His character is certainly a lesson in not judging based on appearance, and the fact that he is reduced to not even being worthy of a name highlights how elements like this can lay bearing on the choices that an individual makes. The monster certainly gave me a lot to think about and even now I’m not entirely sure how I feel about him overall. He is definitely a character that makes me think of the nature vs nurture debate.
The ending was fantastic, as thought provoking as it was creepy and certainly helped to make up for the negatives, In fact it was the ending that bumped my rating back up to a 4/5.
Overall I did enjoy reading this, and I’m sure I’ll pick it up for a reread at some point. It’s not long so doesn’t require a huge commitment, and therefore I definitely recommend it. It’s perfect for the autumn/winter months. Also, my edition had a brilliant introduction at the start with a wealth of information that really enriched the book for me. However I’m glad I chose to read it after I had read the main text because it did include spoilers. It helped me to clarify a few things though and it was great to read how the book came to be, so a welcome addition in my opinion.
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Have you read Frankenstein? What did you think about it? If you haven’t read it do you think that you will? As always I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!