Category: Mary Shelley

book review – Frankenstein


This is a classic by the definition of it having entered the global language associated with a man made monster but you wonder how many people have actually read the book by Mary Shelley.

In a way you almost don’t need to because of the numerous films and the handing down over campfires and bedtime stories of the basics of the story. The problem with steering clear of the actual book is that as a result you are not getting the original interpretation.

There are major differences. In the book Frankenstein’s creation hangs like a shadow over the story but it is rarely seen. Neither is it inherently evil from the start that happens because of the rejection it receives not just from man but also from its maker.

That sense of rejection and revenge drives a story that is not just about man’s desire to tinker with nature. This is clearly about the ambition for science to make mortals as powerful as Gods and the consequences are a warning. But it is also pointing a warning finger about vanity and the consequences that come from failing to face up to responsibilities. It sticks in the kind that when the monster has warned Frankenstein that he will be with him on his wedding night the scientist assumes he is the target and only when it is too late does he realise that he was not the victim.

The device for telling the story is at first misleading because it is told through the diaries and letters of a Polar explorer who is writing to his sister. His crew sight Frankenstein’s creation and then rescue the doctor and it is over the course of a few days, as it turns out counting down to the breakdown of his health and his death, that Frankenstein tells the story of his misery.

He accepts the blame for going too far and taking his arrogance to the extremes of creating life. He accepts that as the creature looks for revenge and kills his family that he is responsible for their murders and deaths. He also accepts that he has to spend the rest of his life tracking the monster until he has killed it.

The story then unfolds and the pace comes from the presence of the monster in the shadows to pop out occasionally with warnings and acts of death and violence.

Frankenstein would rather lose everyone than make a pact with the devil and deepen his crimes by creating another mate for his monster. That decision seals his fate.

One thing that you wonder is who actually wrote the book. You know from her preface that Mary Shelley had the idea in the famous moment when Byron and her husband dreamt up a way to kill the boredom of a rainy summer. But Mary implies that her husband is responsible for most of the text and there are several nods to other poets that often are unnecessary but feels like signposting of authorship.

In the end Mary Shelley had an idea that was timeless in its concept. Man will always try to bend the laws of nature for their own aims and if they do then the consequences could be as devastating as Frankenstein’s example. As you would expect the book is much better than the film.

Version read – Penguin popular classic paperback

book review – Frankenstein


This is a classic by the definition of it having entered the global language associated with a man made monster but you wonder how many people have actually read the book by Mary Shelley.

In a way you almost don’t need to because of the numerous films and the handing down over campfires and bedtime stories of the basics of the story. The problem with steering clear of the actual book is that as a result you are not getting the original interpretation.

There are major differences. In the book Frankenstein’s creation hangs like a shadow over the story but it is rarely seen. Neither is it inherently evil from the start that happens because of the rejection it receives not just from man but also from its maker.

That sense of rejection and revenge drives a story that is not just about man’s desire to tinker with nature. This is clearly about the ambition for science to make mortals as powerful as Gods and the consequences are a warning. But it is also pointing a warning finger about vanity and the consequences that come from failing to face up to responsibilities. It sticks in the kind that when the monster has warned Frankenstein that he will be with him on his wedding night the scientist assumes he is the target and only when it is too late does he realise that he was not the victim.

The device for telling the story is at first misleading because it is told through the diaries and letters of a Polar explorer who is writing to his sister. His crew sight Frankenstein’s creation and then rescue the doctor and it is over the course of a few days, as it turns out counting down to the breakdown of his health and his death, that Frankenstein tells the story of his misery.

He accepts the blame for going too far and taking his arrogance to the extremes of creating life. He accepts that as the creature looks for revenge and kills his family that he is responsible for their murders and deaths. He also accepts that he has to spend the rest of his life tracking the monster until he has killed it.

The story then unfolds and the pace comes from the presence of the monster in the shadows to pop out occasionally with warnings and acts of death and violence.

Frankenstein would rather lose everyone than make a pact with the devil and deepen his crimes by creating another mate for his monster. That decision seals his fate.

One thing that you wonder is who actually wrote the book. You know from her preface that Mary Shelley had the idea in the famous moment when Byron and her husband dreamt up a way to kill the boredom of a rainy summer. But Mary implies that her husband is responsible for most of the text and there are several nods to other poets that often are unnecessary but feels like signposting of authorship.

In the end Mary Shelley had an idea that was timeless in its concept. Man will always try to bend the laws of nature for their own aims and if they do then the consequences could be as devastating as Frankenstein’s example. As you would expect the book is much better than the film.

Version read – Penguin popular classic paperback

Lunchtime read: Frankenstein

The narrative told by Victor Frankenstein to an increasingly horrified Walton on board the polar exploration boat nears its conclusion.

After having been told by the monster that he had better watch out on his wedding night Victor gets it wrong and thinks that the intended victim is going to be himself. He tells Elisabeth to go to bed and waits with a pistol in the next room. But he hears a scream and runs through to find her corpse and catches slight of the monster leaving through the window.

Guessing that his father and brother might be next he hurries home to Geneva but just the news of Elisabeth’s murder is enough to break his father’s heart and the old man dies three days after being given the news.

Then the hunt starts and Victor vows to catch the monster and end his reign of terror and chases him across Europe until they get close to catching each other. Amidst the ice and the cold Victor finally gives put and it is in letters to his sister that the explorer Walton chronicles the final act with the monster climbing through the window to howl at the discovery that his master is dead. He then announces his intention to kill himself and disappears into the night.

Despite its nineteenth century style, which is not always flowing, this does grip you because you can half predict what is coming but the ending is not something you can foresee clearly. This is so different from the films – let’s face it this would not have been more than an occasional walk on part for De Niro, and the Elisabeth love interest is kept to the margins in the text. The most notably absent detail is how he created the monster, something he keeps secret.

Worth reading and yet again proves that the book can be so different an experience from the film. A review will follow soon…

Lunchtime read: Frankenstein

Having outlined his history and accepting he committed the murders of Frankenstein’s brother the monster then waits for a reply to his demand for a female companion.

He promises Frankenstein that he will take his companion and live in the deserts and never trouble people again but Victor does not believe him. But he does feel some responsibility and so consents to creating a mate. The monster (can’t think of a better way of describing him) explains that unless Victor creates a mate he will inflict misery on him and mankind.

Victor promises to go ahead with a female version and heads off to England to get the latest bits of research and start to create the mate. But when he gets away to the Orkney islands and starts he is disturbed by the monster and doubts creep in and he wonders if he should create what potentially could be a deadly duo. He breaks his promise and after a warning from the monster waits to see what the consequences will be.

He doesn’t have to wait long before the revenge bites and he is confronted in a police cell with the corpse of his best friend Clerval, who had been travelling with him across England. Victor is effectively framed but slumps into a fever that keeps him bed bound for two months.

More tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: Frankenstein

After living alongside the family in the cottage and learning the language and gaining knowledge through reading Frankenstein’s creation starts to yearn for friendship. He decides to appeal to the family he has grown to love and visits the blind father when the rest of the household are out walking in the woods.

But he is discovered in the cottage and the horror he is hit and screamed at and leaves the house heart broken. He decides that he will seek revenge on mankind and starts to turn to violence. But what stays his hand is the idea that the responsibility for solving his problems with companionship reside with his creator.

He sets out to find Frankenstein and comes across his youngest brother and cannot resist the revengeful urge to kill him then use his cunning to frame the servant girl. That ends his story and his demands from Frankenstein are that he creates a female mate for him.

Having heard the sad story presumably Frankenstein feels some responsibility but the fact remains that the monster he created has killed his brother and the grief and anger in the young doctor is still raw enough to cloud his judgement.

More tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: Frankenstein

The monster is always lurking and finally Frankenstein meets him again climbing high in the mountains. The creator wants to question his creation about the murder of his brother and the framing of the servant girl. Despite his knowledge of her innocence Frankenstein is unable to stop her being put to death by the court.

To get over his grief he heads for the mountains and there he meets the monster. The creature begs him to listen to his story and then decide how to react to him. If he spurns him without justification the monster warns he will go on a revenge spree.

Sitting in a mountain hut Frankenstein is then told a story of loneliness and solitude after everyone who comes across his creation rejects him. The story starts with the monster looking on a brother and sister and elderly father as a family that he aspires to be part of. He does things to help them under the cover of darkness but you sense that some sort of rejection is coming because there is always the fear of rejection underlying the story.

More tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: Frankenstein

Although the language is firmly 19th century and the style not immediately accessible the strength of the story keeps you reading. The scene in the mountains with Victor and his creation is vivid and no wonder so many film makers were inspired to turn such clear scenes into action.

Having created the monster, although he keeps it secret how he did it, Victor Frankenstein is revolted by his eight foot high creation. What he thought might be beautiful and the best of men is hideous once the muscles underneath the skin start working.

He flees from the monster and is relieved to discover it has gone when he returns to his rooms with his old friend from home who has come to visit him. Victor then succumbs to a brain fever that keeps him in bed for months. Meanwhile there is no sign of the monster and his family, who he has not seen for almost six years.

He promises to write to them and then plans to visit. But then he hears that his youngest brother has been killed and he heads home grief stricken. On his way home he stops at the place where his brother was found in the mountains and as the rain falls and the lightning streaks the sky he spots the monster he created.

Victor is in no doubt that his own creation killed his brother and hurries home after watching the monster scale the heights of the mountain.

More tomorrow…