Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Challenge: A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (age 21 at publication)
Pages: 197
Date Read: 12/5 - 12/7/2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ 

Other Categories this book could have fit into:
A book that became a movie - I haven't seen any adaptations yet, beyond parodies which are amazingly inaccurate
A book with nonhuman characters - just the one
A book with a one-word title
A book set in a different country - it goes all over, actually, though predominantly set in Switzerland
A popular author's first book
A book more than one hundred years old - published in 1818
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
A book that made you cry - we all know I cry in everything
A book by an author you've never read before

I'm unsure how I felt about this book. I adored the beginning. Having read many books from the 18 and early 1900s recently, I was expecting something similar in tone. But I found Frankenstein to be impressively readable, and with a pleasant and easy to follow story structure.

It was about halfway through that I went from loving this book to feeling uncertain about it. The thing that changed for me were my feelings about Frankenstein and his creation. I began liking them both. Frankenstein had many aspects of foolishness, as to be assumed from someone rash enough to try to create life without first considering the consequences, but he was not the cruel, devilish mastermind popular culture had led me to expect. And his creation was duly sympathetic; I wept knowing he would not have the happy ending he sought.

But both characters took unforgivable turns for me. Time and again, Frankenstein showed criminal lack of decision. After allowing his creation to roam free (seeming unconcerned as to where it had gotten to,) he failed to kill the creature, even knowing he had killed his young brother. He did have a plan then, to create a female, but when he turned away from that plan, he again failed to try to stop his creation from killing anyone else. And then again, later, while he had plans to fight with the creature, he did little to ensure that this battle would actually take place. He seemed constantly wrapped up in his own tragedies that he failed to do anything to stop more from occurring.

And, yes, I know that the creation of Frankenstein ought to be sympathized with. But he had some example of the difference between right and wrong, and still he murdered. He didn't do so blindly, unwitting of the crimes he committed, but with intent. And I truly believe that there were those who would have sympathized with him, if he'd been able to give them a chance (Walton actually did, returning to hatred only by recollection of the horrors the creature had perpetrated.)

Both Frankenstein and his creation were so convinced that they were the only ones who knew suffering - that their suffering was greater than any known being had ever felt - that they time and again did horrible and foolish things. Perhaps it's only my state of mind as I read it, but I felt that this was the greatest lesson to learn from this book; that we must look out at the trials of others and realize we are not alone, rather than trying to aggrandize our own miseries. Frankenstein and his monster both possessed an obsession with self (perhaps forgivable in the creation, but not in the man) that led to their downfall.

Anyway, I suppose all of this is me philosophizing and not actually reviewing the book. In spite of my frustrations with the characters (especially difficult as I grew to detest the first person narrator,) I did adore it. The writing is thoughtful, yet constantly moved forward and never became heavy-handed. The characters were thoughtfully crafted, and each stood out individually. There were a lot more moral implications in the book than I here discussed, and so much food for thought that it's hard to take it all in at once. It is a beautifully crafted book; thoughtful and engaging, full of adventure and horror. And I feel the need to point out the descriptions; they were handled really well, to the point where you felt like you got to enjoy lovely scenery, without having it bog down the narration. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that handled description so well.

I would absolutely recommend this classic -- it is quite sad, and in some ways unbearably frustrating, but it's worth it for the ideas and the beautiful writing.


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