Happy Saturday, y’all! I’m excited for some good family time this weekend and hopefully knocking this nasty cold out for good!
Today I am here with a review of a book that surprised me: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This book has an interesting reputation. We all know the name. We can name several movies that connect to or allude to the story (Young Frankenstein, anyone? 🙂 ) Everyone knows the character Frankenstein that looks something like this:
But the intriguing thing is that the monster in the original novel is not Frankenstein. That is the name of his creator–Victor Frankenstein. I wonder when we made the switch in pop culture to call the monster by the name of the creator. But perhaps, it could offer an interesting discussion of who is the monster in this book.
I don’t read horror novels. They freak me out, so I don’t enjoy them. I would not call Frankenstein a horror novel (although it certainly is scary and intense). It is, however, a ghost story. Shelley first told it in 1816 during an unusually rainy summer while on holiday with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. It was an instant success when published in 1818. And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
I listened to this classic on audio book and thought that hearing the prose added to it’s ghostly charm. Plus, it helped me focus on the action better. I highly recommend listening to classic novels on audio book. I have done that for several lately and I really enjoy it. Sometimes I have the novel open and sometimes not. Either way, the audio book keeps me moving forward in the text and often the readings are very well done.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a ghost story about the monster created by the young scholar Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with finding a way to create life in a new way, Victor spends years in the pursuit before success. That success, however, haunts him for the rest of his life. The monster is hugely terrifying and Victor is appalled by his creation. Although the monster wants to find love and companionship, Victor will not give it.. But instead the monster kills a string of people close to Victor and exacts a lifelong revenge against him. This story is all described within a backdrop of a young sailor writing to his sister from near the north pole. He encounters Victor at the end of his life and learns his story. Is it too late for Victor to change and who is the true villain in this story?
The main characters–Victor and the monster–are intriguing and complex driving the story forward. I think it’s impossible to talk about one without the other. I was fascinated by their interactions and the ways Victor could have helped the monster to be good and accepted in the world. The monster wanted to be loved. He wanted to understand the meaning of life from his creator–Victor. But Victor seemed determined from the first moment he had succeeded in seeing the monster as only an evil being–incapable of change or goodness. These interactions made me wonder how the whole story could have been different if Victor had tried to help the monster.
I wonder who is the bigger “monster” in this novel. Perhaps that ambiguity is what makes the story so scary. My mom read this book when she was in college and she has told me that she is unsure if the created monster is the true villain of the story. I agree with her. Victor seemed unprepared and rather naive in his creation of life and then abandonment of it. Then Victor becomes obsessed with the destruction of the monster but ultimately cannot defeat him. I was annoyed with Victor because of this one sided view of everything. I think he could have done a lot more good in his life if he had tried. Is it the monster’s fault that he feels such anger and hatred towards Victor? Does he deserve more from Victor? I think the answer is yes.
The action is intense and fast pace in this shorter novel. That makes this classic really accessible. It’s a classic that many people can enjoy because it’s not to long and is a fairly easy read. I was surprised to find myself so immersed in the story. I found myself holding my breath as Victor went searching for the monster and as we heard about each death. I wanted to scream at Victor to not leave Elizabeth alone on their wedding night (it was so obvious the monster would go for her!) and nearly cried for him as he lost all that he loved.
Shelley has a beautiful style and a compelling voice that adds depth and emotion to this story. I found myself admiring her language just as much as her story. She draws her audience in with compelling descriptions and powerful word choice. It is in her language that we learn some great lessons about life and love. And about the power of one person to create good or evil in the world. This book will make you feel sophisticated in reading its gorgeous style and also accomplished because you can definitely finish it.
A few examples of her beautiful language:
The ending is the most intriguing part of the book and also one of the best I’ve read recently. I don’t want to give anything away but I think the ambiguity and emotion is really well done here.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the novel is a bit slow to get going. I think the context with the young sailor is unnecessary and didn’t really get excited about the novel until we start learning Victor’s story several pages in.
Overall, a fantastic novel that surprised, shocked, and satisfied me. A great classic to start with if you’re trying to read more of them. A perfect Halloween novel. But what I love most about this novel is what it teaches readers about life, love, and choices. Lots of powerful lessons to be learned from this novel. Basically, I think we should all read it.