This is one of those books which I had to read as part of my GCSEs. As a young teenager, the book felt overly wordy and my overall impression was that it was pretty inaccessible. Nonetheless, I did like the idea of Frankenstein – the idea of a sentient creature created by a human being is one I quite like. In fact, after reading and not enjoying the book at school, I watched and enjoyed several of the Frankenstein movies. Really, I was fascinated by the concept and so it’s only natural that I decided to read it again and reappraise it with adult eyes.
As it turns out, I’m really glad that I went back to this one. On my second reading, I loved every page and couldn’t get enough of it. It has an interesting framing device – it starts with a man named Robert Walton who plans to sail to the North Pole. During his journey, he encounters Victor Frankenstein who writes for him the story of his life – which is, of course, the story of how he created an intelligent living being. Within that, there’s a further story of another character’s perspective, but I won’t spoil it. I really enjoyed all three of the narratives and enjoyed how they all tied together.
What I particularly liked about this book was that every character was really interesting. Victor Frankenstein was a very believable character and not necessarily the most sympathetic of protagonists. Meanwhile, the creature is a fascinating character – at times I felt really sorry for him, at other times I thought his behaviour was unforgivable. It’s important to keep in mind that throughout the whole book, the creature is never more than a year old – surely not enough time for somebody to truly develop a proper sense of right and wrong. I also really liked the character of Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s fiancé. A compassionate and caring character and one of the most likeable people in the novel – she certainly stands out among a sea of deeply flawed people.
Frankenstein is probably remembered as a horror story most often, but I don’t think that that is quite appropriate. I’d definitely call it a science fiction story and one which can be quite disturbing at times, but not in the same way that a horror would be – there’s much more to it than that and I think a lot of what makes this story so disturbing is that there are extreme emotional consequences for everything that happens. The characters are nuanced, the emotions run deep and the storyline is clever – for all these reasons and more, this is one of my favourite books.