Pocket Bookclub is not enamoured with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the monster in the book. This a story we retell and reimagine over and over. In fact, Frankenstein is 200 years old this year. It has captured our collective cultural imagination but the source just did not stand up for us.
Let’s start with who is telling the story. At its most convoluted, Frankenstein’s monster is telling the story to Frankenstein, who is telling the guy on the boat who is telling his sister. What is that? Fourth hand? It’s clunky and does not serve any purpose in the plot. It could have been a straightforward narrative and nothing would have been lost.
Then there is Frankenstein. He is unlikeable. He does a despicable thing; creating an innocent life and abandoning that life, friendless with no one to nurture it. Perhaps we could have been satisfied with a redemption story but until the very last Frankenstein is clueless to his real culpability. He blames himself for creating the thing, not for abandoning the thing.
Perhaps he never learns anything because every time something tragic happens Frankenstein falls into months of fever and delirium. How very dull.
A cynic might say this is what happens when a man gets to give birth.
There is plenty of literary commentary on what this book is really about. It’s about the French Revolution and Frankenstein’s monster asserting his rights. It’s about meeting your maker and being able to ask about the meaning of life. It is Prometheus. Whatever. I wonder how much of that is imposed in hindsight to legitimate the book because at the end of the day the book it just did not entertain us.
We spent more time talking about Mary Shelley’s life than about the book itself. This is perhaps the saddest part. I thought Frankenstein was her only book. She has been relegated to being the wife of the great poet Percy Shelley and because most people only know about her one book it is somehow considered a fluke Actually she wrote lots of books and stories and travelogues and was known by her contemporaries as a writer.
I also have to acknowledge Mary Shelley was only 18 when she wrote this book which is amazing. I wonder how she matured as a writer? I have a biography on my shelf to read. Perhaps I will change my mind about Frankenstein with additional context.
But for the time being, I am with the Pocket Bookclub and out of step with many on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Sorry. Happy for you to tell me what we missed!