19 April 2018

Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I was so excited to finally get around to reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley this year, but I'm sad to say I didn't enjoy the book AT ALL! It largely came about thanks to a read-along hosted by Noveltea Corner, but let me explain why I loathed reading this.

With a classic as well-known as Frankenstein and having watched various adaptations in TV shows and movies, I thought I knew the basics of the story and how it was written. Turns out I was in for quite a shock.

I've never met such a miserable, self-centred and morbidly depressed character in all my reading life. Victor Frankenstein is an unlikeable character and I wasn't expecting the complicated web of nested narratives implemented to tell the story. The narrator is on a ship writing a letter to his sister, telling her about a person he met (Victor Frankenstein) who conveys his story about creating a daemon. Then we hear the creature's story, as told to Frankenstein, relayed to our narrator and re-told in a letter to his sister. If you thought that was confusing, I agree. At times I almost felt like I was lost in the movie Inception.

Here's another surprise: there is no 'lightning bolt' to animate Frankenstein's creature. In fact, the moment the creature is brought to life happens so quickly you could easily miss it, and one of the other readers participating in the read-along did just that.

Frankenstein is immediately horrified and mortified when he lays eyes on his abominable creation but he 'runs away' and is relieved to find his creation isn't there when he returns with a friend. Why wasn't he curious about where his creation went? Why didn't he destroy his research and dismantle his lab equipment? I found his denial incredibly frustrating.


But this sets the scene for the entire book, which is essentially about Frankenstein's remorse at creating the being and I wasn't buying it. He takes no action to control the situation, he leaves his family in danger and indulges in his self-induced melancholy, remorse, internal torment and inaction to the point of illness; time and time again.

Of course, the creature is unhappy and lonely and asks Frankenstein to create a mate for him. When he refuses and the creature kills his love interest, my heart leapt at the hope the book was going to redeem itself. Surely the creature will force Frankenstein to make him a companion from the corpse of his lost love, but this didn't happen. Perhaps it's my warped 21st Century mind that jumped to this conclusion - it'd be the ultimate revenge for the creature - but it was clearly a lost opportunity for the author in my opinion.

The final insult came when Frankenstein was on his deathbed and asked our narrator to finish the job of tracking and killing the creature. Are you kidding me? He should have done it himself!

I will say the writing is terrific at times, and I did enjoy the phrase 'catalogue of sins' in this quote from the monster on Page 223, although the average reader will find the language quite lofty:
"When I run over the frightful catalogue of sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness."

Although Frankenstein is a short book, it bored me senseless. It might have been groundbreaking in its time, but it doesn't hold up to today's standards. It's kind of like Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but thankfully much shorter.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!

2 comments:

Budget Movers Fullerton said...

I enjoyed this book immensely and was inspired to try my hand at horror writing. More on that endeavor as it develops. In the meantime, read this and weep — with laughter.

Tracey said...

Really glad you enjoyed this book, and I know I'm very much in the minority here. Good luck with your own writing.