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Book Review: Frankenstein

I stayed away from this book for years because of its reputation. This newfound obsession is entirely my artsy friend’s fault.

She was watching the play version by the National Theater online during lockdown–and it is a wonderful production. But, being unaware of the greater requirements of the genre, she saw old-fashioned light bulbs and a train and cried steampunk.

You can imagine what happened after that. Frankenstein might be something I had little interest in, but a steampunk theater version was something I was not about to miss.

A word of warning, in case you haven’t guessed–the production isn’t steampunk. It’s deeply gorgeous and horrible and throws in a lot more foul language than the book, implied rape and partial nudity, so be forewarned what you’re getting into if you watch it.

The acting is sublime. It broke my heart a little.

So that was the introduction. Accompanied by several weeks of pained expressions whenever I heard a sound remotely similar to the Creature’s desperate groans of agony.

It wasn’t long after that I stumbled upon the Frankenstein musical soundtrack.

Yes, Frankenstein has a musical. The soundtrack is incredible and I love it more than I, a writer, can find words to say. And being a musical, it’s a little less traumatizing than the stage version. Lighter, as much as the tragedy can be. And each version is slightly different, all of it a far cry from the standard green monster fare.

Which brings us to now. Summer, the season of reading as much as humanly is possible and sometimes beyond that.

Time to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Genre: Science-fiction/horror

Content for the sensitive reader: Mild language, murder (although not particularly graphic), corpses, discussions and attempts of suicide

Format read: Audible audio narrated by Dan Stevens

BookmarkedOne Rating: 10/10

I’m not sure any review can fully capture what’s inside that book. So if you decide not to read this and simply take my heartfelt recommendation and find a copy of the book, I won’t be too disappointed.

I had a feeling I would fall in love with it. And though Shelley does spend a great deal of time talking about the landscape (ice, snow, mountain, ice, ice, glacier, river, oh, hi Henry), reminding me of one too many dry YA books, I have few other real complaints.

The Dan Stevens narration is lovely, if it cannot quite equal the gorgeous, unbelievably deep voice of the Creature in the musical. He changes his voice just slightly for each of the characters, but more than that, you can hear the emotion in it. Every word is soaked with the experiences each character has in the story, good, bad, and beautiful. As far as audiobooks go, it’s a very good one.

Frankenstein himself is, as expected, a helpless little over-dramatic fainting goat of a protagonist, but somehow better in Shelley’s version than in the National Theater.

Perhaps it’s the fact that he prefers reanimating life forms over going to university lectures.

It is…a valid reason.

And the Creature?

I stopped reading after his first few words to Frankenstein, trying to cover his creator’s eyes with his hands like a child. Not because I was unhappy. Simply because it was so beautiful and endearing I couldn’t read any more, perhaps knowing what I know.

I know it’s supposed to be scary. But I wonder if I’m really the only one who came away, instead of being terrified, with wanting to give the Creature a hug.

Another interesting thing is how much isn’t in the book. We all think we know the story of Frankenstein and his monster, how the Creature was stitched together and animated with a bolt of lightning. There is no mention of either in the entirety of the book. To readers then, how the Creature was made remained an eternal mystery.

I think it’s a pity the world has remembered the monstrous, invented the explanations, and forgotten how tragic and beautiful it all could be. I’m never going to quite get over the idea of the Creature admiring flowers in spring.

My only other complaint is the ending, and not being the author, it’s hardly mine to decide. I grew so fond of the Creature I wanted him to be happy again. I have such a terrible weakness for happy endings. I’d give them to almost anyone, if I could. At least in the musical things end a little better than they do in the book.

But that’s Frankenstein, everyone! The real story, not the one everybody thinks they know. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to devour another book and start hunting the rest of Mary Shelley’s works that I can get my grubby claws on.

Oh yes. She has other stories too.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Frankenstein”

  1. *sets aside the sweater I’m knitting for the Creature*
    What a BOOK. Really now. It’s so tragic and frustrating and I MUST give this sweater to the Creature as soon as possible along with some cookies.
    “Helpless little over-dramatic fainting goat of a protagonist” is so incredibly accurate. XD
    Ok, now I’m curious: did you see the NTL production with Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein or the Creature? I saw the one where he was Frankenstein (let’s be honest, Benedict Cumberbatch is really good at playing smart but self-obsessed characters), and I feel bad that I can’t remember the name of the guy who played the creature, but he was SO GOOD.
    Wait, there’s a MUSICAL???
    Must listen to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My heart! Oh, Creature in a giant fuzzy sweater–yes, yes please. Let me know when you’re planning a visit and I’ll bring some hot cocoa too.
      Yes, the NTL production! I saw the one with Cumberbatch as the Creature–it was brilliant. Jonny Lee Miller is the other actor.
      Check out the musical! There are some gorgeous animatics for it, too. “Amen” is one of my favorites: https://youtu.be/WXM0kx8Z5VA. I may never shut up about that musical soundtrack even if my voice range is vastly unsuited for the Creature’s part.

      Liked by 1 person

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