Saturday, 22 October 2011

Book review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

We're all vaguely familiar with the story of Frankenstein. There's a mad scientist and a monster and all manner of evil things. We all know Mary Shelley wrote it when she, Percy Shelley, Byron and I imagine a few other drug-addled soaks challenged each other to write the scariest possible ghost story. Mary Shelley came up with version one of her now famous novel. That was what I knew about 'Frankenstein'.

I bought the Penguin Classic of Frankenstein many months ago because it was a book I thought I should read sometime. I finally picked it up last week and absolutely devoured it. It was so much better than I could have presumed. I love classic literature but it can be so hit and miss it terms of what travels well over the centuries. Take certain novels out of their time and context and they loose their pizazz. Frankenstein I feel has travelled well. It's short, which certainly counts in its favour, and the story is so rivetting. There are times when the progress lags and there is rather too much exposition without action but then it starts up again and off we go on the next round of horror.

The author Mary Shelley.

I understand that Frankenstein is much-studied for its gothic romance qualities and Shelley's literary devices. It is of course a much adapted and referenced novel – there have been at least 11 direct film adaptations and then of course innumerable referencing works – The Rocky Horror Picture Show amongst them. Knowing all this it's so interesting to read the original and see all the misconceptions that have formed. The most common of these is that Frankenstein is the monster whereas it is Victor Frankenstein is the 'mad' creator of the being that brings death and destruction.

Boris Karloff as the best-known representation of Frankenstein.

I won't say any more, because that would just ruin the suspense! I just recommend the book. It's a quick and easy read and very enjoyable.

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