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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Frankenstein

May 11, 2015

3. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1818)

Read By: Simon Vance
Length: 8h 21m (352 pages)

Genre: Classic, Science Fiction

Started: 11 January 2015
Finished: 18 January 2015

Where did it come from? Audible.
Why do I have it? It was my book club’s pick for classics month!

If man creates a
monster, then abandons it,
who’s the REAL monster?

Summary: Victor Frankenstein, the son of a wealthy Geneva family, was encouraged in his pursuit of the study of the natural sciences, and from his reading gleans the idea of creating life from non-life. So he builds a creature from human body parts, and animates it, and is then struck by the horror of what he’s done, during which time the monster escapes. It soon learns that it is monstrous, and by hiding in a shed near a house with a family, learns language. It vows vengeance on Frankenstein, for creating it and abandoning it, and proceeds to kill those that Frankenstein loves, and to destroy his every chance for happiness.

Review: This was a really fascinating read, and made for a surprisingly intense discussion at book club. I’d grown up with the pop-culture monster image in my head, and I knew enough to know that Frankenstein was the scientist, not the monster (although does his behavior make him the one that’s truly monstrous? Discuss.), but I’d never before read the actual book. I was surprised how much of it doesn’t match the Hollywood version, and by how much of it’s from the monster’s point of view – he’s very articulate, which surprised me.

The prose was really pretty dense – no point in saying once what you can say three times with a bunch of adjectives, I guess – and there was a lot of wailing and (metaphorical) gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, which got a little bit (a lot, actually) tiring. But I liked that it could be read on a number of levels – as a horror story, as a story about scientific ethics, as a story about the human condition and what it really means to be human, so that was all great. I also entertained myself as I was listening by seeing how far I could carry my theory that Frankenstein himself actually was murdering all those people – several times throughout the novel he goes into fits and has a fever from which he doesn’t recover for several weeks, and when he does, someone else close to him is dead. It doesn’t quite hold up throughout the entire story, but I thought it made an interesting possibility. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I didn’t love it, but it’s absolutely worth reading, both to get the real scoop on the mad-scientist cliche, and to provide lots of really interesting possibilities for debate with others.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: A Good Stopping Point, Iris on Books, A Writer’s Dream, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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First Line: To Mrs Saville, England. St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17–. You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2015 3:17 am

    I’m reading it at the moment and really enjoying it, although my experience in reading it comes on the back of having recently listened to a condensed 10 episode adaptation (each episode 7 mins each) created for learners of the English language, with a class of mature French students and in the middle of that ,seeing a relayed broadcast of the theatre production from the National Theatre in London starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature, which was absolutely stunning, visceral, exhausting and memorable.

    So now I absolutely had to read the original that inspired all this – I’m not really familiar with the Hollywood versions, I haven’t seen any other adaptation, but just love that this work of a very young woman spawned a new genre of Victorian gothic horror and has had such a long life, continuing to inspire writers and actors today.

    • May 18, 2015 9:42 am

      The National Theatre production sounds fascinating – and Benedict Cumberbatch would be amazing as the Creature – I’ll have to see if I can find a copy!

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