Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

So many people seem to have read Frankenstein, or at least sections of it, during their time at school. I never watched a film version of it either, to my knowledge, so my thoughts on it were completely skewed. It somehow managed to pass me by and I only ever knew of it because of how often Frankenstein was used as an insult to people or a situation of true horror. I recall buying it not long after finishing high school but it stayed unread for years.

But one night, as I sat in the lounge unable to sleep, I was staring at the books in front of me and I realised that it was a short book and would not be too difficult to get through. Due to my constant lack of sleep it was finished in a matter of days and I seemed to read through it quicker than a lot of books that have actually held my focus and captivated throughout.

As I started to read it there were a lot of expectations and presumptions that crossed my mind. Entering the reading and finding it start with a lot of letters by a guy wanting to head off on a boat to the North Pole confused me so much but I figured that it had to have something to do with the plot so I carried on reading them with interest.

Because of the letters and the almost casual nature they were written in it made the whole thing feel like you were being told a story over a campfire or on a cold night in front of the fire after a party by some distance relative. Sometimes this approach can wear thin on me quite quickly because I want to be able to bring myself into the story rather than have it forced upon me quite so soon but this was done in a clever enough way to not frustrate me. Partly it was because the build-up was slow and it provided a lot of background detail before the important bits occurred and that allowed us to understand the person writing the letters a lot more.

As we entered the actual story of Frankenstein within the letters I found myself to be doing a rather strange thing. Perhaps I missed the crucial sentence, which is probably the case in my sleep deprived state, but I spent a fair chunk of the beginning of the book thinking that Frankenstein was a woman. I do not know why but it had no impact on the story and in my own little world for those few minutes of silly ignorance it was quite nice to imagine a female lead (and especially knowing that they would be at the hands of an awful creation instead of the usual male narrative).

Once I had straightened my head out and got the facts clear I felt that bits of the story made very little sense. As you would expect from somebody on a chase through the icy pole weather. But there were things that I wanted to understand more and the answers never came or it was never referred to again and this is why it feels like somebody telling me a story face to face because of the disjointed and sometimes poorly thought through words.

The description throughout the book was generally great however and I was able to imagine the locations and people enough to imagine the scene. I found that the monster was actually fairly poorly described and I struggled to imagine anything more than a shadow for the creature. This may just be me struggling to engage with the language and approach of Shelley or perhaps it was something done intentionally but I found it greatly frustrating about that lack of detail. The creature would look at its own reflection in a puddle and see its disgusting self but nothing more was mentioned.

In the end the letters at the beginning make sense and there is some great sense of satisfaction to be able to see the story come full circle, get a conclusion and close the book without feeling that there was something left for the author to specifically tell. A delightfully interesting book that provided a lot of twists and turns along the way. Certainly worth the read and not time wasted but a reader could easily find sections to be a bit disjointed and wanting them to be further explored however that would take away from the length of the book and no doubt make it feel less like the story is being spoken.

A variety of editions of Frankenstein are available to buy at Waterstones but it can also be found in most libraries and second hand stores/websites as well.

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