Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Book Details
TITLE – Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
AUTHOR – Mary Shelley
YEAR PUBLISHED – 1818
PAGE COUNT – 269
MY RATING – 4 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 3.86 of 5
Monsters are amongst my favorite fantasy creatures. Plus I love reading classics. But when I first read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, I have to admit – I didn’t know how to appreciate it. I think a lot of it had to do with my expectations back then. I expected a Hollywood-style monster story and got instead an existential tragedy.
I had never even seen a proper adaptation before. Only short pieces in which a crazy scientist manages to bring a monster to life. The scientist had a vibe of an 18th-century version of Sheldon Cooper on crack. And the monster looked and sounded a lot like Lurch.
That was literally all I knew about this incredibly innovative, imaginative and immersive classic. In fact, Frankenstein is frequently referred to as the world’s first science fiction novel.
Apparently, when she was 18, Mary, her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, their friend Lord Byron and a few other people were traveling Europe. On a boring rainy day, the group decided to pass the time by competing in who can write the creepiest ghost story.
Mary based her story on a nightmare that occurred to her after hearing her husband and Lord Byron talking about the possibility of reanimation and bringing the dead back to life. In the dream, she saw a man creating a horrific creature and regretting it instantly…
What Is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley All About
Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.
Victor Frankenstein is an ambitious, enthusiastic, brilliant young scientist obsessed with uncovering the secrets of life and death. Determined to accomplish what no man had ever done before, he manages to give life to a creature he has created himself using parts of dead bodies.
However, faced with the result of his experiment, he instantly regrets what he’s done. The monster looks so grotesque and unnatural – even his creator doesn’t want to have anything to do with it.
But, no matter how repelling, the monster has many human characteristics. Including the need for love, friendship and belonging. As well as the impulse to punish rejection with anger and violence.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – My Review
The fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.
If you want to get incredibly confused, indecisive about whose side you are on, ultimately realizing you do not have anything to compare this story with to be able judge the characters correctly – then this book is exactly for you!
As I mentioned, Frankenstein was not at all what I expected. It was much less a fantasy and creating a monster and much more a story about making an irrevocable mistake, learning to live with the guilt and trying to fix what can be fixed.
I loved how strong and resonating the moral of the story was. The consequences were brutal. And on the second read, I was more able to appreciate the thought behind this novel. It’s uniqueness and foreshadowing. The huge existential questions it covers. Well, touches on, really. But still.
At first, I didn’t like how perfect the Frankenstein family was portrayed. But the more I read, the more I appreciated the contrast between their kindness and innocence and the terror of Victor’s creation.
Why did I not die? More miserable than man ever was before, why did I not sink into forgetfulness and rest? […] Of what materials was I made, that I could thus resist so many shocks, which, like the turning of the wheel, continually renewed the torture?
But I was doomed to live.
Amongst the other things I liked was the writing style. Not the most accessible book I’ve ever read, you can definitely feel it was written in another century. But it was beautiful and it almost felt like poetry at times, which created a perfect balance to the horrifying events described.
And of course, what I liked the most was the story itself. So original. So imaginative. So thrilling. Unlike anything I’ve ever read.
Victor’s thirst for knowledge was almost palpable. His curiosity, delight in front of the unknown. His first experience with death and sorrow. Frustration when facing an unsolvable riddle. The need to push the boundaries.
Plus the appeal of the supernatural, just all the possibilities it could offer. And also a certain level of serendipity.
It all created a compulsive read.
It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.
However, the first time I read Frankenstein, I felt like the main story – the story about a man who, in an attempt to create life, created a monster – wasn’t given enough space. The book is not very long, and a lot of it goes on descriptions of nature, Frankenstein’s relationship with his family and his inner monologues.
I expected a bit more about how he created a monster and how they both dealt with that instead of endless regret monologues. Plus, I assumed Frankenstein had a better, more direct and specific motive for creating the monster than – I really really wanted to know.
All that said, this was a brilliant read that resonated with me and made me think about it often until I finally caved and grabbed it again.
Regret and guilt are at the very center of the book. Lots of deep thoughts to make you question what you thought you knew about life, and creation, and loneliness. About looking for a purpose and not finding one.
The monster’s story is so tragic.
It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.
Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein and his monster became one of my favorite stories ever. It was a great pleasure to finally get into the origins of a creature we all have heard of, that became an inspiration for so many movies, art, as well as other stories and characters.
I will be adding this book to my recommendations for the best classics for fall (which I hope will be done soon 😅).