Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is the first novel by Mary Shelley.
Finished on: 17.1.2019
[Here are my reviews of various Frankenstein adaptations.]
Victor Frankenstein has always been interested in the natural sciences, although it all started with alchemy for him. After his mother’s death, he buries himself in his work as a student of chemistry. He experiments with reanimation and actually manages to bring a creature to life. But the creature is scary and ugly and Victor abandons him. The creature has to find his own way in the world.
Frankenstein is a beautiful, albeit lengthy novel that is definitely a classic for a very good reason. Still, I have to admit that what I loved most about it is, weirdly enough, the author’s introduction.
It’s hard to imagine what reading Frankenstein must have been like when it first came out. Now that we have what feels like a gajillion movies and the story is so well-known, it is difficult to approach the novel and see, well, it’s novelty. But of course, a good book doesn’t need novelty to work, and Frankenstein is absolutely a good book.
The language is beautiful and often extra-ordinary. The story builds nicely from that central idea. Often novels with a really good idea rely too much on it – this book absolutely does the work. But at times it’s also simply very long and roundabout and a little frustrating. I have to admit that it did test my patience at times.
Surprisingly, it was the author’s introduction that I really fell in love with, including Shelley’s description of the first idea:
Night waned upon this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by, before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handywork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation, would subside into dead matter; and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench forever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.
Maybe my love for it comes from the fact that it was written much later, and shows how much Shelley matured as an author. Be that as it may, it is a beautiful introduction to a very good novel, even if I didn’t absolutely love it.
Summarizing: Should be read.