- Mary Shelley
Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness.
Everyone knows the story of Frankenstein, don’t they? Mad scientist in a castle in the mountains, servant called Igor, lightening brings a monster with a bolt through his neck to life; monster is hideous but has a heart of gold and is mistakenly hunted down by villagers with pitchforks. That’s the basic story isn’t it? Well, that’s what I thought before I started reading the actual book, the inspiration behind hundred of TV and film adaptations and re-imaginings. Instead I found a very different novel where there are only shades of grey – a young scientist who is obsessed with what he can do, he doesn’t think about if he should (and yes I deliberately mis-quoting Jurassic Park!).
The novel is told in flashback as Frankenstein is rescued in the Arctic by a ship of exploration as he pursues his creation to the ends of the earth. He tells the captain of ship of his quest and the complicated history he shares with the monster. There is no castle – the monster is built in Frankenstein’s lodgings in town, no lightening, no Igor, no bolt and no villagers with pitchforks. And the monster? Well, that is complicated. He may hideous to look at, but as he learns and gains knowledge I felt much sympathy for his blight – after all we know the adage about not judging a book by its cover (although we are all guilty of doing that to some extent!). So at first my sympathy was for the monster and I despised Frankenstein. But then events conspired that I changed my mind and reversed my allegiance. I can’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil the true story! However, I would say that no matter what our past is and our circumstances at some point you have to take responsibility for your own actions – and inactions. For me that is what both the scientist and the creation is guilty of – not taking responsibility for themselves and their choices.
Overall, though I really enjoyed the true story – so different from the Hollywood version – as is the case with many of the classics! The writing was grand, epic and perhaps a little melodramatic at times, but which of us when telling our own stories doesn’t make it as dramatic as possible? A perfect gothic story to read as the nights draw on and cold creeps in.
Recommended for fans of Bram Stoker and Alexander Dumas. 8 out of 10