Frankenstein is a novel first published in 1818 becoming an immediate bestseller. It was written by an English author Mary Shelley and edited by another renowned English writer – Percy Shelley, Mary’s husband.
The book is more than two centuries old and it just adds up to its creepiness. In this article you will encounter some useful advice on how to craft a top-notch book review based on this novel.
The Author’s Background
It is always a good idea to touch upon the author’s biography in a review as it could explain some literary choices and the overarching themes. Mary Shelley was a female author which in itself was a rare occurrence at that time. Taking her unusual biography replete with rebellious undertakings and personal tragedies into account is crucial in understanding Frankenstein’s ideas.
Mary was born into a well-to-do family of intellectuals, from the very young age being exposed to education and the world of literature in particular. Thanks to her advantageous background she was able to get acquainted with the most remarkable writers of her time such as Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. Despite being a woman, she had an opportunity to obtain good education which contributed greatly to her success as a writer.
However, Mary Shelley was not all about exquisite schooling and noble origin. She was quite a volatile personality having escaped her family with still married at that time Percy Shelley and later taking interest in other men. She travelled around Europe unrestrained by conventional wisdom and public opinion. Despite the ostensible bravery Mary had quite a tragic fate having three of her children die at an early age and her husband Percy drowned. Nonetheless, she remained strong and productive until her own death.
What About Frankenstein?
Of course, you cannot write only about the author, otherwise, it won’t be the book review. So, let’s touch upon the novel itself in the light of the contextual information I have provided.
Frankenstein was rather a happy accident. Mary Shelley wrote the book with a sole intention to kill the boredom of being stuck in the rainy Alps. Having nothing better to do, she decided to have a little competition for the best horror story with her friends. So yeah, in the old times people wrote bestsellers rather than watch cat videos to have some fun.
Frankenstein tells a story of a despondent, but inquisitive scientist, who strives to find a key to existence. He is fascinated by mystery and magic, tinkering with it on a regular basis with an intention he can barely comprehend. This lack of self-awareness makes him frustrated with his creation and leads to the tragic consequences which ensue.
Basically, what the young bright Victor did was take body parts from different dead people and combine them into one… being. Despite the new creature having a monstrous look, it did not have a monstrous soul. Frankenstein gave life to something with a human heart. However, he fails to take responsibility for his actions, fleeing rather than admitting the mistake, sowing death and misery all around him.
Book review has to be all about analysis. Of course, you need to corroborate your statements with the concrete examples from the novel, but simply reciting plot details is not going to help you impress your teacher. Thus, let’s explore the thematic framework of Frankenstein to understand it on a deeper level.
The central idea that Mary Shelley investigates is, of course, the necessity of taking responsibility for your actions. Because Victor is so afraid of public shame and outrage, he not only puts his family in danger, but condemns the whole world to the constant fear. Almost all people who get close to him face some trials often even death. However, he does not even warn them about the peril, nor does he try to stop it for the biggest part of the novel.
The second important theme is the role and value of appearance and public’s attitude to it. Frankenstein’s monster is so scary not because of his actions, but rather because of his looks. At first, he is quite a lovable creature admiring people and craving to become a part of their community. However, after getting rejected he becomes embittered trying to hurt those who did not deem him worthy. It is a natural reaction for every individual which has nothing to do with his outward monstrosity.
Let’s just look into the situation with the peasant family. The nameless monster had been observing them for quite a long time, learning their habits and even the language. He viewed them as heavenly gods and dreamt of being like them. The monster showed a tremendous degree of passion and dedication in his studying. However, when it came to revealing himself to the family, he was not only reviled, but hunted and almost killed. This is where his external monstrosity permeated his inner self.
The Weak Points
Even if it is one of the best books you laid your eyes upon, it is a must to remain critical in your review. So, you need to extrapolate upon the weaknesses of the novel to show the reader that you are not feeding them propaganda, but a reasonable and thought-out analysis.
Frankenstein is definitely a deep read. It deals with all kinds of debatable issues starting from the role of knowledge all the way to the impact of nature on a human being. However, the way some characters act (in particular female characters) may be offensive to some. The fact of the matter is that women in Frankenstein have no agency whatsoever. Victor’s wife Elizabeth is not trying to actively defend herself waiting for her husband to come and save her. Victor’s sister Justine does not stand up for herself when facing an execution for something she did not commit.
Thus, many modern women may be outraged by this rampant passivity and absence of the strong female characters. It is especially weird when considering that Mary Shelley’s mother was a vehement feminist and Mary herself did not lead a traditional female lifestyle of the 19th century. However, many critics argue that this meant to show the paralyzing power of the monster and the inevitable demise of everyone who he intended to kill. It is not just the women, but the men as well who are afflicted by his cruel lonely madness.
Any decent book review should provide a brief evaluation and recommendations at the end. So, is Frankenstein worth your time? Absolutely! Even if you are not a fan of the horror/mystery genre, it is a deeply philosophical book with minimum gore and maximum ideas. It will definitely force you to reconsider you behavior and mode of thinking. If you read the book carefully, the next time you have to make a decision, you will think twice about the possible ramifications.
It is a classical book as it scrutinizes the universal themes and professionally employs recurring motifs and symbols. It is very well-written in a manner which engulfs the reader in a dark, tense atmosphere of the imminent tragedy. So, if you have not read the book yet, jump right to it. It is definitely much more fun than your predictable horror flick.