Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

I often wonder why I, the biggest bookworm in my circle of friends, have always been cursed (or blessed?) with teachers who never required any reading. We were encouraged to read, sure, but we never had reading lists or discussions about the classics, or modern controversial books, not even Orwell. So I’m behind on all of those books and as I’m catching up, I wish more and more my teachers had pushed some of these titles into my hands then.

by Mary Shelley

Published: Signet, 1999 (1818)
ISBN: 0451532244
Pages: 272
Copy: paperback, ebook

My rating: 7/10

First sentence: I am by birth a Genevese; and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic.

The Original Gothic-Horror Literary Classic! Mary Shelley’s deceptively simple story of Victor Frankenstein and the creature he brings to life, first published in 1818, is now more widely read-and more widely discussed by scholars-than any other work of the Romantic period. From the creature’s creation to his wild lament over the dead body of his creator in the Arctic wastes, the story retains its narrative hold on the reader even as it spins off ideas in rich profusion.

Victor Frankenstein relates the story of his life in minute detail and with great care. We learn first of how his parents met and how he and his siblings grew up in the happiest of families, living in Geneva, surrounded by loving friends and caring neighbours. Once Victor discovers science for himself and moves to Ingolstadt to attend university, his life takes a turn and his sole ambition is the creation of life – without a woman or divine intervention. Yet as soon as his creation comes to life, Victor renounces all responsibility and wants nothing to do with it. Misery ensues…

Dense and maticulate in style, I felt it easy to fall in to this gothic tale of horror and – yes – science fiction. Frankenstein and his family, while rather too good to be true, are characters I came to care about and whose happiness I was hoping for. I was surprised into how much detail the author went relating the family life and, especially later in the book, travels and landscapes. More surprising was the fact that the key scenes – the coming to life of Frankenstein’s creature – as well as some gruesome murders, encounters with the monster, and other potentially impressive scenes – were told almost hastily, as if the author wanted to leave all the details to her readers’ imagination.

My imagination went wild. The themes discussed here make you think. Creating life means having to take responsibility. And whatever it is you create, however much you may see it as an object while it’s a work in progress, as soon as it’s alive, it has a mind of its own. Frankenstein learns this in the most painful way imaginable and as the story progresses, we descend into the darker realms of life.

This was an impressive story with some great charactarisation – especially the monster felt more human to me than some too-good-to-be-true women featured in the story – and just a bit too much travelogue and landscape descriptions for my taste. Ultimately, I am glad to have read it and recommend it with some reservations.

THE GOOD: Raises the question of responsibility for ones actions and of what makes us human.
THE BAD: Some pacing issues in the second half, too much blah-blahing about landscapes for my taste.
THE VERDICT: A dark and intriguing story that fans of gothic horror won’t want to miss.

RATING: 7/10 Very good.

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3 thoughts on “Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

  1. Redhead says:

    If only my teachers had required us to read books like Frankenstein on 1984! Like you, I came to gothic literature after school, after all my “literature” classes had ended. And Frankenstein? Such an incredible read!! It’s been years since I read it, but I remember being a little obsessed with this book when I was in my early twenties. The version I have has some ultra creepy woodcut illustrations, which made it even scarier.


    • Nadine says:

      Yeah, what is wrong with teachers? No 1984, no Dorian Gray or Great Gatsby? I didn’t have to read any of these and now, here I am. Totally behind the rest of the world.
      But it’s nice to know I’m not the only one – and who knows, maybe if we’d had to read these classics in school, and discuss and dissect them, maybe that would have spoiled a bunch of wonderful stories. 🙂


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