Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who attempts to reanimate a dead body. 

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”

Hollywood… you have lied to me all these years *shakes fist* Frankenstein is the complete opposite of what I expected! First of all, Frankenstein himself is a major tool. Second of all, the monster is not some dim-witted fool without a brain. He is actually more well-spoken than yours truly.

My overwhelming reaction to Frankenstein is how the hell did Mary Shelley write this at just 18 years old?! The writing is so beautifully atmospheric, and it’s such a complex multi-layered novel. What I really find fascinating is that this isn’t set in any of the usual gothic settings, like a crumbling castle for example, a lot of it takes place in the great outdoors, which really brings something different to the narrative. Frankenstein is also considered to be the first science fiction novel combined with supernatural terror, which is mighty impressive when coming from an 18 year old girl raised in that time. 

My perception of Frankenstein was that it was about a scientist who uses electricity to bring life to this corpse made up of a conglomeration of body parts, which then goes on to mindlessly kill or hurt people. Bearing in mind, I’ve never actually seen a Frankenstein adaptation. Oh, and even though I KNOW that Frankenstein is not the monster, that link is still in my head for those first few seconds when I initially think of Frankenstein. So to read Frankenstein and learn that all my assumptions about this book were pretty much wrong was a real eye-opening experience! It’s not just a story about a monster, it’s so much more than that. It really makes you reflect on the ethical and moral repercussions of experiments like this. Is there such a thing as going too far in the quest for knowledge? As a scientist I can completely understand the obsession that can come from blue-sky research. 

There is also of course the famous story behind the creation of Frankenstein – Lord Byron and a group of guests spent an evening together on Lake Geneva in 1816 reading ghost stories, which then led to the challenge for each person to write their own ghost story in a writing competition.  The edition that I read gives even more insight into Shelley’s personal life at the time, and I was really surprised at all the heartache and strife she had gone through – and would go through after completing Frankenstein as well. I now have a strong desire to read more about the story behind the book, given how inspiring Shelley’s backstory is.

I never had Frankenstein down as one of those books that would get me all emotional and teared-up! But my heart was breaking during the monster’s recollection of events. Why couldn’t that family just take him in and accept him?! *cries* Although I must admit if a 7 foot tall yellow creature appeared at my door, I’m not so sure I’d welcome him in with open arms either… but I’d like to think I would?! Wishful thinking, perhaps! The loneliness this character goes through… the abandonment. Truly one of the most heartbreaking stories in fiction. And all because of that damned Dr Frankenstein! What an absolute toolbag. You can’t give life to something and then just wipe your hands clean – well, you can, but you SHOULDN’T. I’m team monster all the way, even during those cruel moments when he really tested my compassion for him… but still, I prevailed team monster.

At the beginning I was a fan of Victor, I admired his determination and dedication, the man is clearly a genius. However, once the monster is created he begins to lose his humanity and becomes so whiney, self-obsessed and annoying. Soz, mate, but you brought it all upon yourself. If you had have taken some responsibility for your actions, things wouldn’t have gone so tits-up.

I think I’ve gone on long enough in this review… I didn’t think I would have so much to say about Frankenstein, but I guess this just shows how much I really loved this one! Definitely earned a spot in my top classics list. 4.5 stars.


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