What can be said about Frankenstein that hasn’t already been said?
This work of proto-science fiction, horror, tragedy, and so much in between, crosses the gulf of time between us and eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley in a way that few books from that period can. She writes with an economy of prose, whilst maintaining the characteristic Romanticist flair of nineteenth century literature, that can captivate even those most conditioned to 21st century stylings. It is riveting, heartbreaking, terrifying, and inspiring.
But that’s all been said.
I’ll save you further fumblings for originality in my assessment of this apex of the written word, this soaring achievement of the mind of a young nineteenth century girl. Instead, I’ll leave you with a passage from towards the end of the novel. It doesn’t give a whole lot away, but I still urge you to experience the book for yourself before reading another word – of this review or anything else.
This passage has provided me years of inspiration, comfort, and fascination. Enjoy it, and please, enjoy Frankenstein.
“What do you mean? What do you demand of your captain? Are you then so easily turned from your design? Did you not call this a glorious expedition? And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror; because, at every new incident, your fortitude was to be called forth, and your courage exhibited; because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave and overcome. For this was it a glorious, for this was it an honourable undertaking. You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species; your names adored, as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour, and the benefit of mankind. And now, behold, with the first imagination of danger, or, if you will, the first mighty and terrific trial of your courage, you shrink away, and are content to be handed down as men who had not strength enough to endure cold and peril; and so, poor souls, they were chilly and returned to their warm firesides. Why, that requires not this preparation; ye need not have come thus far, and dragged your captain to the shame of a defeat, merely to prove yourselves cowards. Oh! be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes, and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable, and cannot withstand you, if you say that it shall not. Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows. Return as heroes who have fought and conquered, and who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe.”
p.s. As with The Descent, it’s my intention to eventually get round to writing a more comprehensive piece on Frankenstein. Follow me on the social media of your choice via the contact page to stay in the loop.