Friday, 16 August 2019

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

After reading Alex Nye’s excellent Arguing With the Dead, an historical novel about Mary Shelley,  I was motivated to read Frankenstein again. I’m not going to offer a review as such for what can I possibly find to say that hasn’t already been said. I can reaffirm that this is a nigh on perfect example of the gothic novel. I can acknowledge how the celluloid view of Frankenstein has caused folk to make the error that the monster and his creator are one and the same, even believing that Frankenstein IS the monster. That always makes me want to urge people to read the book! I had also 'forgotten', or did I in fact ever realise, that the novel was subtitled 'The Modern Prometheus'. That resonated with me especially in the recent wake of reading Madeline Miller's Circe. But ultimately I quickly became absorbed again in the story and the quality of the writing. I can report that the experience was highly enjoyable!

But a couple of other things also occurred to me. Generally, how valuable rereading a book is. For me it’s a time issue. With so many new books being published and my shelves overflowing with books I want to read for the first time let alone a second, rereading has become something of a luxury. I don’t know how many years it is since I read Frankenstein the first time, but it is a lot! And in that time I had forgotten some things completely, certainly in terms of detail. Age does mess with your memory! I was struck by how vibrant the writing is.  I also realised how I have developed as a reader and my appreciation of style and structure,narrative,  character development, not to mention plot, have become more acute. Or is that because knowing the story I can concentrate more on those aspects of a book? Which leads me to wonder how much better a reviewer I might become if I could indulge in several readings of a book before committing and cementing my thoughts.

The other thing is how one work can enhance another. My knowledge of Mary Shelley was more basic than I realised until I came to read Arguing with the Dead! I’m always grateful for fictional representations of a notable person’s life because somehow I’m more likely to read it than a biography. This sounds perverse but often there’s such a choice I dither about making a decision and possibly end up reading none of them. But a fictional work sends me scurrying to find out more especially if there’s a concise bibliography. So now I feel a deeper understanding of Mary Shelley which fuelled my desire to read Frankenstein again and my next aim is to revisit Shelley and Byron who I have only read sporadically in last years. 

So, finally, I'm reminded of the adage that one thing leads to another. It has here in a most positive and thought provoking way! 

“a single word even may be a spark of inextinguishable thought” 
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry and Other Essays

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