Bill Kerwin's Reviews > Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
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it was amazing
bookshelves: gothic, detective-mystery, weird-fiction, epistolary
Read 3 times. Last read July 19, 2012.


It's been fifty years since I had read Frankenstein, and, now—after a recent second reading—I am pleased to know that the pleasures of that first reading have been revived. Once again--just as it was in my teens--I was thrilled by the first glimpse of the immense figure of the monster, driving his sled across the arctic ice, and marveled at the artful use of narrative frames within frame, each subsequent frame leading us closer to the heart of the novel, until we hear the alienated yet articulate voice of the creature himself. In addition, I admired the equally artful way the novel moves backward through the same frames until we again reach the arctic landscape which is the scene of the novel's beginning...and its end.

This time through, I was particularly struck with how Mary must have been influenced by the novels of her father. The relentless hounding of one man by another who feels his life has been poisoned by that man's irresponsible curiosity is a theme taken straight out of Godwin's Caleb Williams, and the cautionary account of a monomaniac who gradually deprives himself of the satisfactions of family, friends and love in pursuit of an intellectual ideal is reminiscent of the alchemist of St. Leon. Her prose also is like her father's in her ability to make delicate philosophical distinctions and express abstract ideas, but she is a much better writer than he: her sentences are more elegant and disciplined, and her descriptive details more aptly chosen and her scenes more effectively realized.

The conclusion of the novel seems hasty and incomplete, but perhaps that is because the concept of Frankenstein is so revolutionary that no conclusion could have seemed satisfactory. At any rate, this fine novel has given birth to a host of descendants, and—unlike Victor Frankenstein—is a worthy parent of its many diverse creations.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
Finished Reading (Leather Bound Edition)
May 12, 2007 – Shelved
August 5, 2007 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
July 6, 2012 – Shelved as: gothic
July 6, 2012 – Shelved as: detective-mystery
July 6, 2012 – Shelved as: weird-fiction
Started Reading
July 19, 2012 – Finished Reading
August 20, 2012 – Shelved as: epistolary
December 27, 2017 – Shelved (Leather Bound Edition)

Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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Hamza Very elaborated review, i have read this novel just when i became 24. And it's amazing how it's full of grace and passion. A favourite!


Robert Wasn't it the Antarctic? Or am I mis-remembering?


Bill Kerwin It IS the Arctic, which in 1816 was still largely unknown. Explorer Robert Walton's first two letters to his sister are sent from St. Petersburgh and Archangelsk, Russia.


B the BookAddict Great review, Bill.


Anna Interesting. I enjoyed reading your review Bill, lots of things to think about and explore, but I don't find the ending rushed. I find the final scene probably the most powerful and evocative.
Did you mean the pace within the closing scenes or the way Shelley structures the final chapters of the book? The closing section in particular always reminds me of The Ancient Mariner.


message 6: by Bill (last edited Nov 01, 2015 07:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Kerwin I no longer remember for sure what I meant, but I think it was the narrative within narrative structure. yes, the last scene is very powerful.


Anna Mmm I suppose it does move on fairly relentlessly after the wedding night.


Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder Great review. I read this last year w/ one of my GR groups. I just loved it. I was really amazed that such a story could come from such a young women--at a time when educational opportunities and intellectual stimulation for women were a far cry from what they are today.


Bill Kerwin Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder wrote: I was really amazed that such a story could come from such a young women--at a time when educational opportunities and intellectual stimulation for women were a far cry from what they are today."

Yes. But--not to take anything away from Mary--when you consider both her parents were extraordinarily gifted and intelligent--her father a revolutionary social philosopher and her mother a pioneering feminist--perhaps it's not so surprising after all.


Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder Maybe her parentage did have something to do with how gifted she was.


message 11: by Brit (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brit Cheung Love the review. commence the reading now;it definitely is a great work.


message 12: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Inbinder Outstanding review!

"Her prose also shows her father's mark in her ability to make delicate philosophical distinctions and express abstract ideas, but she is a much better writer than he: her sentences are more elegant and disciplined, and her descriptive details more aptly chosen and her scenes more effectively realized."

She was definitely influenced by her father's writing and the philosophical writings of her deceased mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, as well. However, Percy Bysshe Shelley arguably had the greatest influence on Mary's Frankenstein. He provided her with a reading list and these books, particularly Paradise Lost and Plutarch's Lives, are referenced in the novel for their affect on the impressionable, self-taught creature. Further, according to what I've read, Percy critiqued and edited Mary's manuscript on a daily basis. He also wrote (in Mary's voice) the famous preface, with its reference to their 1816 sojourn with Byron and John Polidori at Byron's rented villa near Geneva, Switzerland.


message 13: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Kerwin Gary wrote: "Outstanding review!

"Her prose also shows her father's mark in her ability to make delicate philosophical distinctions and express abstract ideas, but she is a much better writer than he: her sent..."


Thanks for your helpful, informative contributions to the review. I knew about the preface, but not about the rest. I also like the question your comments raised for me: is Shelley in some sense Victor and is Mary the creature?


message 14: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Kerwin Brit wrote: "Love the review. commence the reading now;it definitely is a great work."

Glad you liked the review. Yes. It has the elemental power of an old folk tale and the sophistication of a modern philosophical work as well.


message 15: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Inbinder Bill wrote: "Gary wrote: "Outstanding review!

"Her prose also shows her father's mark in her ability to make delicate philosophical distinctions and express abstract ideas, but she is a much better writer than..."


You're welcome, Bill. I researched the subject several years ago for my first novel, Confessions of the Creature, a re-imagining of Frankenstein from the creature's perspective.

In a sense both Shelley and William Godwin could have played Victor to Mary's creature. Much has been written about these complex relationships. I recall a revival of interest in Mary's Frankenstein, as opposed to the familiar 1930's Hollywood version, following the 1970's publication of Anne Edwards' novel, Haunted Summer. And then there were three 1980's films, Haunted Summer (a film adaptation of the Edwards novel), Rowing With the Wind, and Gothic, that dealt with the circumstances surrounding the creation of Frankenstein.


message 16: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Kerwin Sabah wrote: "Bill, love this review of a novel I've read twice over and one which certainly lived up to my expectations.
I loved the similarities between Waldens character and Frankenstein, Shelley did a fin jo..."


Thanks for the enriching observations!


message 17: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Matsui I'm ashamed to say that it's only now that I started reading Shelley's Frankenstein for the first time and so far it's an inspiring read. Bill, thanks for the in-depth review.


William Frankenstein is a masterpiece of exploration of what it means to be human. Extraordinary and timeless. Daring and raw. Truly immersive voices from the past, from now and the future.


message 19: by Peter (new) - added it

Peter Excelllent review Bill. I wonder, have you read the original 1818 edition published by OUP? This edition is very different to the 1835 edition that everyone as read.


message 20: by Bill (last edited Feb 26, 2017 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Kerwin Peter wrote: "Excelllent review Bill. I wonder, have you read the original 1818 edition published by OUP? This edition is very different to the 1835 edition that everyone as read."

No! I knew there was a great difference in the introductory materials, but I wasn't aware until now--when I just looked it up inspired by your comment--that the text itself was substantially revised as well.

I'll have to read it sometime. Thanks fior the tip!


William Peter. Wow! Thank you


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Beautifully written review, Bill. A coworker was just talking about this book to me an hour ago. It's his favorite. I told him I was planning to read it this year (keep saying that but don't always get to it). I know it's a mixed opinion book.


message 23: by Lars (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lars Jerlach Great review Bill.


Diane I read this fro the first time and was surprised by how much I loved it.


Richard Subber Bill, you've excited my memory of reading Frankenstein so long ago. You didn't mention it explicitly, but you made this clear: the book is so much different than the movie. The book is so much more provocative than the movie. The movie is all monster. The book is all humanity.


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