Sunday, 17 May 2015

Book Club of Two - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

My wife and I are both keen readers and while our reading tastes differ considerably, there is some crossover, books or authors that we both like. On those occasions we always enjoy discussing books we've both liked, and that's where we came up with the idea for a 'Book Club of Two' where we both read the same book at the same time. We can discuss as we go and compare notes afterwards. It sounded like a good idea, particularly as we both now have Kindles and can share books easily, so decided to give it a go. After a couple of false starts, we settled on 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley. It's a Classic and critically acclaimed, but it is also science fiction, a genre I enjoy. Here's what I thought of it, then I'll give you my wife's thoughts as a bonus.

First of all it is a short book, only about 200 pages, so it is not one that is going to take months to read. What's more it is quite an easily read, there's some lengthy chunks of description and exposition in places, but for the most part the book flies along at a decent pace. So it already has a couple of advantages over other classics.

Frankenstein is a story that has long since entered popular culture, but how much do you actually know about the story? To explode one common misconception for starters, (Dr) Frankenstein is the name of the person who created the monster/creature, rather than the creature itself. In the course of study and research at a university, he discovers the secret of life and death, and creates a creature out of a mish-mash of body parts and then imbues life into it. The creature is let loose on the world, and the majority of the book then deals with the consequences of this.

It is a good story, and while it does come across as a bit cliched and obvious at times, one has to remember this was the first story of its kind. There were no such cliches or stereotypes when this book was written in the early 1800s. Most of the book is set in mainland Europe, particularly Switzerland, which is quite unusual and takes a bit of getting used to, albeit later on Frankenstein does visit Britain. Occasionally, I did get frustrated with how idiotic Dr Frankenstein was (a good example with only a small spoiler is that after creating the Monster, he basically runs away in terror - no wonder it turned out so badly...) but didn't detract much from the story. I particularly liked the part of the story where the monster tells his side of the story and what he's been upto after Dr Frankenstein ran away in terror from his creation. I started to feel sorry for the monster... for a while at least. I thought the book ended well too, but won't say any more about it as I don't spoil the book for anyone who might want to read it. Overall a very good book, recommended. I'd give it 8/10.

Now for my wife Kate's comments.

"It's hard to believe it was written more than a hundred years ago, it is more like current historical fiction. I thought it was engaging, a little obvious at times and a little frustrating (the decisions made by the main character at times), but it was excellent and no wonder it has stood the test of time."

We'll bring you another read from the Book Club of Two in due course!