I enjoyed this story a lot more than I expected, though I wish the writing had been a little different.
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, 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. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Add it on Goodreads.
Like 99% of the classics I read, I read this book because of school. I can’t say that I had low expectations for the book, because I had honestly no idea what to expect. I knew that Hollywood portrayed the Creature wrong…and that was it. I was pleasantly surprised by Frankenstein, though.
I’ll start with the positive. I genuinely enjoyed the plot of this book. Having known nothing about the plot beforehand except that the Creature comes to life and everything goes wrong, I found the actual plot original and complex. There is so much more going on in this book than “whoops, bringing the dead back to life is a mistake.”
There were surprising moments and the story built to a strong climax. I loved the approach the story took to discussing good and evil, as well as how it left some moral questions unanswered.
The Creature was a fascinating character, and his complicated relationship with Victor was unexpected and nuanced. I absolutely hated Victor, but I admire Shelley for how completely she got me to hate him. Both characters grow significantly throughout the novel and I never felt like I didn’t understand their motivations.
Looking just at the overall plot of the novel and the two main characters, Frankenstein was a really solid novel. Unfortunately, the details are where I start to like the book less.
First off, waaay to much time passes. Seriously, the book spans like six years, with most of that time just being Victor passed out from his bad decisions or loitering, trying to decide what to do next. If you cut out all the waiting around parts, the plot is paced pretty well, but I could never get fully invested in the story because so much of the story wasn’t the main plot.
Also, the writing bothered me. I knew it was a “classic” going in, so I wasn’t expecting it to read the same way a novel written today would. I can forgive the novel for its wandering sentences and obsession with figurative language—in truth, I actually enjoyed those parts.
However, the story is told in a forcibly “tell” instead of “show” manner. For me, it felt like certain chapters were trying to suck all of the excitement out of the plot in the way they were told. For a book that is entirely in first person (though the narration changes), it feels like it’s written in third person—by which I mean that something is constantly separating me from experiencing the action up-close-and-personal.
Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It is one of my favorite books I’ve read in for high school, both from a plot standpoint and a literary analysis standpoint. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy “classic” writing, or who are at least able to forgive a story for slower pacing.