“I’m f**ing done this sh*t!” I hollered happily when I read the last sentence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
I struggled through every word of this novel just so I could knock off another classic on my Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 reading list.
The good parts: there is much about Mary Shelley’s classic that is wonderful. Shelley begins the story with letters from a brother, Walton, to his sister. He seeks adventure, triumph, honour, comradeship as he ventures on an expedition towards the North Pole. He finds Victor Frankenstein and we hear the story of his upbringing in Switzerland, his intense study in Germany and finally his obsession with creating life, which ends with the creation of a monster. Shelley moves the plot seamlessly between Walton’s letters to Victor’s narrative and finally, to the monster’s narrative of his experiences after he escapes Victor’s home in Germany. Each story leads to another a story, to another story – every so often, the spell is broken with Victor’s present admonitions towards his monster, but Shelley adeptly dives back into the tale.
She expertly creates a sense of foreboding, mystery and anxiety. Tension runs through the narrative – a must for any horror piece. Her characters are typical of the time, at times a little too perfect, and of course so very innocent which makes the monster more evil. The birth of a man – from innocent, to a learned individual is chronicled. As he learns about humanity, Shelley sharply criticizes civilized society. Prejudice deters true understanding of those around us, and at times, she elicits compassion for the monster, for he did not ask to be created.
The not-so-good: this novel is too long for its plot, far too descriptive and overly dramatized. It reflects the writing style of the time, but if felt unnecessarily emotional. Too many passages that went off on tangents, though relevant in the creation of atmosphere, were completely unnecessary.
I need to connect to characters in some way in order to truly love a book. I did not connect to one character in this novel – I didn’t care about Frankenstein, his family, or the monster and I found Walton rather whimpy. The conclusion of the novel left much to be desired too. At no point did any feeling other than annoyance rise out of me towards any character.
Ultimately, if you like horror fiction, and don’t mind long-winded (beautifully written) passages that do not progress the plot – but give great insight into humanity – and, don’t need to connect to the characters, then you’ll probably enjoy this novel a lot more than I did. I’m interested in hearing from those who just love this book…my only question is, why?