Book Review: “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this one. I’ve been vaguely looking forward to reading it for decades. It sounded intriguing—a progenitor of both science fiction and horror, and much more thoughtful than a mere “monster” book. My impetus for starting it this month is an upcoming 8th grade field trip to the Bakken Museum of electricity which features an exhibit on Frankenstein and Mary Shelley.

Possible spoilers below.

In general, I found much of the book to be plodding, even taking into account the different literary style of its era. (I don’t usually have much trouble with 19th century literature.) The bulky frame story felt awkward and overwrought. Victor Frankenstein was such a miserable wretch that I found myself dreading reading anything else about him. I wanted to scream at Shelley, “Show, don’t tell!” As Frankenstein’s tragedy’s mount, it felt like every paragraph was a variation of, “No one can conceive the anguish I suffered…” Ugh. The foreshadowing was also heavy-handed by current standards, leaving few real plot surprises.

Hooray for chapter 10! Enter the monster. This is where the story came to life, so to speak, for me. I knew the monster would be more than what I expected from cartoons and film, but I was still surprised when he delivered eloquent lines like this, “Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.” I love a monster with a strong vocabulary and proper elocution. I found his story to be fascinating and tragic, and spent much of the rest of the book rooting for him. The whole book was worth it for the monster’s story. I can see why the story became famous. It raises profound questions about the nature of humanity and evil.

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