I always have a hard time reviewing a classic. I always say: “who am I to say if a classic is good or not? How dare I!” But then again, we humans always have the need to share opinions, therefore here are my thoughts on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Last year I read a book based on Mary Shelley’s life: A Fatal Likeness. I didn’t like that book for the fact that the author clearly despised the Shelley’s and all the fiction created about them was too much to be taken as real. It just didn’t make sense. One thing that book proposed was that Mary Shelley did not write Frankenstein, supposedly her husband did and she published it under her name after his death. That brought my attention and I decided to give Frankenstein a try.
I am not acquainted with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s work, but just by reading Frankenstein I can say this book was written by a woman. I am a woman, and under no circumstance am against our estrogenic ways, but I have to admit we have a flaw (amongst others as we sadly are not perfect creatures, even though some women think we are ha ha ha). This flaw my friends is that we are obsessed with detail. I have no doubts in saying that Frankenstein was definitely written by a woman, a young woman (she was 18 when she started writing it). I mean those monologues? Who else but a woman would write about a monster that turned out to be so eloquent and reined in his speech on its own, only by listening and observing a family in a cottage? Word after word after word after word describing trees, mountains, shrubs, feelings, thoughts, memories! I am a woman but come on! Those monologues were boringly long to read.
I read this book without any knowledge of what it was going to be really about. Of course we all know the scary green monster from movies and cartoons. I thought this was going to be a scary horror film put in poetic words. I was wrong.
Plot wise, it started OK. You first read the letters and you get to think it will be an interesting ride. You predict twists and turns that sadly never arrive.
Then you meet Victor. I liked Victor in the beginning. He liked chemistry with passion, I like chemistry, chemistry rocks! Too bad he turned out to be such a lame character.
*SPOILER* He created life out of “nothing” and didn’t know what to do with it because it didn’t turn out how he poetically thought it would be. He abandoned it to its own fate. He let it wonder off and become the sorrowful being it became. I think he was infatuated with the idea of creating life on his own, but never thought it was going to be really possible or never thought what he would do once he accomplished his “project”. He could be classified as a bad scientist, he was only working hard to create life, but he lacked the scientific drive to keep experimenting with that life once it got created. He had no plan B, or C.* END SPOILER *
There was a love story in between all the monologues. I don’t know if I was so bored out of my mind because of the monologues, but I couldn’t find the love story compelling. If Victor was so in love, why did he lose so much time whining and complaining? *SPOILER* He could’ve prevented his wife’s death but all he did was lead her straight to it. He could’ve prevented all the other deaths.* END SPOILER * It’s sad to read about a brilliant mind that could create life but wasn’t strong enough to deal with depression and stress.
Even though it was a tough book to read, I kept going, but on every page I read, this question was a constant: When is this going to get scary? 75% into the story, I gave up trying to get scared or horrified. Of course, I imagine that at the time this was published, the sole thought of creating life, playing God, had to be to some extent scandalous, but scandalous as it still is and sounds, it was not written horrifyingly. I guess the book lacks more creepy disgusting details about the life creating process and the murders. Maybe that would’ve made a difference in the story and not made it so dull and tedious.
I kept reading just to finish the book.
The ending was bland, too poetic for my taste. I thought it was going to end with a bang but it didn’t for me. I was so glad to be done with the story when I clicked the last page.
I wasn’t expecting this review to get all Mary Shelley-ishly long! To sum it all up, I can say this: plot wise Frankenstein is boring. :D
So if it was so boring why did I give it 3 stars instead of the 2 the plot deserves? Well, I got a lot of new words from this. I like to feed the last neurons I got left with new words. Some are new, some are words we no longer use and I personally think we should start reusing again. And despite the fact that the long monologues took a while to read, there were some parts that I thought were nicely written. I would have despised this book if it was all monologue but thankfully you first get the letters and then you get different narrators that make the reading process bearable.
Also, even though the plot wasn’t what one would expect from an acclaimed thriller, you could spend quite a bit of time analyzing this one from other points of view. One theme for discussion is how Shelley romanticized a monster. The so called monster wasn’t born a monster, he was a somewhat pure creature whose malice was not innate but induced by the slights and humiliations he got from other human beings, who abhorred him for his looks, and from his creator, the last person in the world from which a good natured being would expect to be despised from. Does this justify the murders it commits? We could spend hours talking about the way the “monster” deals with rejection, pain, resentment, lack of guidance and loneliness.
So there you have it. For me, Frankenstein was an OK book. Frankenstein is a good group read, as it deals with themes that are an open door for interesting discussions. Frankenstein is a once in a life time read (as I don’t think I’ll re-read this any time soon). Read this book, because everyone needs to read a Romantic at some point in life. Rid yourself of the marketed images and ideas created by movies of our times. Read this knowing it is not a scary thriller. Read this because let’s face it: this story, as romantic as it is, has been and still is a MAJOR influence to the thrilling, horrific, creepy scary stories of our times.
If you like this review, check out my blog, you might like my other musings!