Review of Frankenstein

The 19th novel that I have completed from my list is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  This is also the second book that I have competed for the Gothic Reading Challenge that I started at the beginning of this summer.  When this novel first appeared in print in 1818, the author was anonymous.  It wasn’t until the second edition (1823) that Shelley’s name appeared.  One night Shelley and three of her friends, who were also writers, decided to have a competition to find out which of them could write the most entertaining horror story.  This competition gave birth to Frankenstein.  At the age of 18, Shelley started to write this novel and by the time she was 21 the novel was published.  Initially the critics did not take to this book.  However, the reading public liked it immediately and since then it has become a classic.  Today Frankenstein is acknowledged to be a turning point for Gothic and Romantic literature and some even consider it an early example of science fiction.

Shelley created a frightening tale about a scientist named Victor Frankenstein, who suffered a great loss when his mother died one week before he left to study at the university at Ingolstadt, Germany.  While in Germany, Victor experimented with bringing the dead back to life.  He was successful and created a man who by Shelley’s description was a hideous monster.  After his success, Victor was appalled by the creature he brought into existence and abandoned it.

This creature was thrown out into the world without a friend or family member.  Discarded by Victor, the monster had to learn to live on its own.  Eventually he found out that Victor created him and he tracked down Victor and his family.  Once Victor is confronted by his experiment, he must decide what should happen to this new “human” that he created.  Should there be more?  Or should he hunt down his creation and kill it?

I am doing my best not to give away too many details about the story even though this story is well known.  But if you are relying on movies to get to know Shelley’s characters please beware since many Hollywood versions have not been true to the book.  When I was a grad student I led reading discussions for Western Civ students each week and one of the books we read was Frankenstein.  Normally I didn’t give too many pop quizzes on the readings except when we read a book or novel.  Not too many of my students figured out this pattern which surprised me.  Or maybe they just didn’t care.   On the Frankenstein quiz I would ask who Frankenstein was and each semester half of my students would say that he was the monster.  Those students didn’t do that well on the quiz.

This novel has so many themes and concepts behind the story that I wish I read this with a group.  It would be fantastic to discuss Shelley’s work and how other people interpret her ideas.  It is a fascinating study of nature versus nurture.  Was the monster evil at the moment of his creation or was he made evil when he was thrown out into a world that didn’t show him love or compassion?  Also, this story touches on how far should science go. Was Victor wrong to try to cheat death? Or was his mistake to abandon his creation and to let it loose on society and not take responsibility for his actions?

If you have not read this novel I highly recommend it.  It has always been one of my favorites and rereading it for my challenge was a delight.  And if you have read it, I would love to hear your thoughts about the work.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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18 Responses to Review of Frankenstein

  1. Carl V. says:

    I read Dracula when I was a kid and also Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but for some reason never picked up Frankenstein until I was much older. I think it was probably largely because I found the movies I had seen to be only slightly entertaining. Imagine how surprised I was when I finally cracked open the book! I shouldn’t have been though. I’ve never seen one film version of Dracula that I didn’t find a complete abomination when compared to the book (other than the old silent film Nosferatu) so it really isn’t that surprising that they also get Frankenstein so very wrong.

    I find the fact that this book was written by Mary Shelley as part of a competition as interesting as the book itself. It is fun to think that this result of that contest has lasted for all these many years. Glad you enjoyed the re-read and that you are having fun with the gothic challenge.

    • TBM says:

      You are the second person this month to mention Nosferatu to me. I’ll have to check this one out since I haven’t seen it. It is disappointing that the movies take such liberties with the story since the original story is far better in my opinion. But I’ve always been fonder of the book than movie adaptations.

      It is funny that this novel started out as a challenge. I’m betting that she won! And thank goodness they had this challenge since I love this novel.

  2. Carl V. says:

    I read that she had a nightmare about this and that is where the inspiration from the story came from. I don’t know if that makes me sad about the kind of dreams she had or if it thrills me in that “I like to be scared” way.

    I was able to see Nosferatu a number of years ago in a theater with a small musical group playing the music to go along with it, recreating the original production feel. It was fun. Had I not been very familiar with the story of Dracula I am not sure I would have enjoyed it as much, but knowing the story I was surprised with how faithful some aspects (most aspects) were. More so than any modern day adaptation of the book. The films are all travesties in my opinion. If I remember right, Stoker’s widow brought suit against the film maker of Nosferatu because it was so obviously an adaptation of Dracula but no rights were secured, etc.

    • TBM says:

      From what I understand, after she and her friends thought of this challenge she did indeed have a terrifying nightmare. And she was able to turn this nightmare into a novel. It is scary to think that she had a nightmare that terrified the heck out of her and I don’t know if I would want the same to happen to me. But I can never really remember my dreams and maybe that is a good thing.

      I’m so sad that I missed this viewing of Dracula. What a cool experience!

  3. Meredith says:

    I saw this movie, thought it was pronounced “Fronkensteen.”

  4. Caroline says:

    I did review Nosferatu for last year’s R.I.P. I had never seen it before and it is really quite something.
    I wonder if Carl has seen Werner Herzog’s Dracula? Now that is special. Such a herat breaking Dracula, Klaus Kinski. And – this is a little secret, not many people know it – it has been filmed in Switzerland in parts, in the so-called Via Mala. That is one hell of a spooky place.
    Back to Frankenstein. I like the story how it was written but never felt tempted to read it. I also read Dracul and others but not Frankenstein.
    I see you are getting addicted to group readings now… I have read a few books lately where I thought it was too bad I read them on my own.

    • TBM says:

      I’ll have to check out Nosferatu. How is Herzog’s Dracula? What makes Via Mala so spooky?

      I know what you mean about the reading groups. It is fun to be able to discuss some books and to see the novel through other’s interpretations.

      • Caroline says:

        I am scared of mountains. Although I live in Switzerland I live in the North, German/French border, very flat. Our mountains are scary, they are lurking somehow and anyone who has ever been in the Alps and isn’t familar with it, says the mountains seem to move towards you. Not everybody has this reaction but I know many. Now, the Via Mala (which means bad/evil way) is steep ravine, black, black and narrow and very deep. It’s like standing on a high tower, you look down and feel the pull, you look up you see the mountains come closer… Spooky. http://www.360cities.net/image/via-mala-switzerland#34.00,17.30,70.0

  5. Carl V. says:

    I haven’t. I’m not sure I’ve seen a Herzog film, to be honest with you, though I have some lined up in my Netflix queue.

  6. TBM says:

    Hi Caroline. That looks and sounds amazing. I am adding this to my list of places to see! I have to experience the mountains moving towards me. Also, I need to track down the movie that was filmed there.

  7. Caroline says:

    The Via Mala is a place to visit. There are other spectacular mountain views in Switzerland, of course, but this is unique. Maybe it will not have this effect on you, but as said, I’m scared of the Alps (and I am not easily scared, after all I read Poe by candle light).
    You do not see all that much of the ravine in the movie but when you know it, it is chilling to see it and know, they are there. I have to re-watch it. A spectacular looking Isabelle Adjani is the female lead.

    • TBM says:

      LOL…I’m going to have to read Poe by candle light now! I am a little terrified by heights but I love to see new things. My library doesn’t have a copy of the movie so I will have to keep looking.

  8. Caroline says:

    Sorry, I commented with the wrong “Identity” — should you wonder, it is my movie blog.

  9. Jo Bryant says:

    I am ashamed to admit although I have viewed many of the movies – I have never read the book – so now I will add it to my growing ‘to do’ list. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I’m sorry if I added more to your list, but if it makes you feel better, this is a really good novel. And isn’t it funny how the list seems to grow even when we check stuff off of it.

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