by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Vintage Books, 1831, 231 pages, General Fiction
Obsessed with discovering “the cause of generation and life,” science scholar Victor Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts. However, when his creature comes to life, Frankenstein recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness and abandons his creation. Tormented by loneliness and shunned by society, the originally docile creature begins to harbor a horrible grudge against his creator, and proceeds to murder the people Frankenstein holds most dear.
This fascinating novel, which is lauded as both one of the first horror stories and one of the first science fiction stories, has undergone many different retellings over the years, but none can match the nuance of the original. Shelley’s beautiful, flowery Victorian language might make the Story drag in some places; however, for the most part, the added detail gives the reader space to think about the consequences of Frankenstein’s actions. This is a story about the ethics of scientific studies, the value of human life, the effects of alienation and isolation, and our responsibility to have compassion for each other.
Reading this book at our current time in history also made me consider angles I might not have considered before. I think everyone can sympathize even more with the mental health effects both Frankenstein and his monster encounter as they experience isolation and loneliness.
I listened to an audiobook version of this story, read by the unparalleled Simon Vance. His reading of Shelley’s lush prose added an extra layer of atmosphere that really helped capture the mood.