Books

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

To many readers, who have perhaps known Frankenstein only at second hand, the original may well come as a surprise. When Mary Shelley began it, she was only eighteen, though she was already Shelley’s mistress and Byron’s friend. In her preface she explains how she and Shelley spent part of a wet summer with Byron in Switzerland, amusing themselves by reading and writing ghost stories. Her contribution was Frankenstein, a story about a student of natural philosophy who learns the secret of imparting life to a creature constructed from bones he has collected in charnel-houses. The story is not a study of the macabre, as such, but rather a study of how man uses his power, through science, to manipulate and pervert his own destiny, and this makes it a profoundly disturbing book.

Shelley is a lot like her mother. They both love characters who talk and talk and talk.

Honestly, I did not expect most of what happened in this book. Everyone “knows” the Frankenstein story: mad scientist raises the undead in a creepy laboratory in the mountains during a thunderstorm. It usually seems to end there. Some variations, Frankenstein actually makes a “female” version and, usually, the female doesn’t want anything to do with its male counterpart.

However, I learned that Frankenstein is much more than that. It’s a lot more gruesome and morbid than I thought it would be. I wouldn’t really classify it as horrifying in any way. Honestly, I was a bit bored by many parts of it. I sympathized with Frankenstein’s creation when he told his tale but it was still hard for me to picture him as anything but human.

I will say that I enjoyed how Shelley utilized the unreliable narrator. I can’t believe sitting down with someone while they recounted a story as long as this.

Overall, I’m glad I read it and got it out of the way but I didn’t particularly like the book itself. I don’t want to say “it was okay” AKA 2 stars because that implies there was something good about the book. Not to say there’s anything bad but it just wasn’t for me.

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