Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Book Review

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3 Stars

Forget the big, green, shuffling, moaning monster with bolts in his neck that we’ve all come to associate with Frankenstein. He does not appear in these pages. I wonder what book those old horror movie writers read? It wasn’t this one.

Frankenstein’s monster is big, but the only other physical descriptions I really remember are flowing black hair, watery yellow eyes, and uncanny speed, agility, and tolerance for cold. Oh, and he’s more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. Seriously.

As for Frankenstein himself–a more self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-explicatory character I hope to never meet. He was terrible! This was his story:

“Oh no! Something bad happened!”


He falls over in nervous delirium and is bed-ridden for months.

He wakes.

He moans and groans and just generally doesn’t deal.

Then one day:

“Oh no! Something bad happened! But it wasn’t my fault!”


He falls over in nervous delirium, bed-ridden for months, blah, blah, blah, blah.

That really is Frankenstein’s story in a nutshell.

I do realize that this story was supposed to be more of a warning about our science getting ahead of our morals, pride coming before a fall and all that. On that level, it completely worked. As I read this, the word hubris kept coming to mind, and I haven’t thought that word since studying the Greek myths for months on end my sophomore year of high school. That was more years ago than I honestly want to think about. Anyway, Shelley absolutely did what she meant to do and her work is always going to be relevant. But as a reader, I need a character that I can like. I don’t think it necessarily has to be the main character, just give me someone, somewhere, to root for. There wasn’t one here. Clerval or Elizabeth could have filled the role, but they were little cardboard cutouts to show that Frankenstein had something to lose. The monster himself was briefly likable in his wide-eyed innocence, but then he started to learn all of humanity’s nasty habits. He had his reasons, but still. Ultimately I felt kind of bad for him, but I didn’t like him.

It’s a classic for a reason, and it really should be read, but don’t expect to be too happy with anyone.

Reviewed October 12, 2009

Read an excerpt.

My Character Connection featuring Victor Frankenstein (with some pics of a very hot Kenneth Branagh).

Buy Frankenstein at


Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. I absolutely love this book but I do understand where you are coming from. If you read books for the characters, then you will be disappointed because none of the characters are likable. I would suggest keeping away from Vanity Fair cause the characters aren't likable either.

    What I love about this book is the greater implication that are still relevant today. It is an attack on the female reproductive system (that is still going on right now) and the questioning of how parent-child relationships are build.

    I love that you used the word hubris cause this is an example of where hubris didn't go far enough. If Frankenstein had just had more pride in his creation, he could have raised it as a child and educate it (which the creature did himself)and it would have changed mankind forever. Except he did become afraid of his own pride and shrunk away from his duties.

  2. I'm reading this one now, and I'm nowhere near where I can honestly say what I feel about the book. At this point, I'm intrigued and wondering where this will go. The stream of consciousness of Frankenstein (the guy himself) is honestly a little tiring, so I get some of what you are saying. Can't wait to read and see where this goes.

  3. I am so glad I'm not the only person out there who didn't really enjoy this book. I had to read it a couple times throughout high school and college and I just could never really get into it. I get that it's a classic, but I thought Frankenstein was just this whiny dude.

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