Book #54: Frankenstein

My book club was reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley during the month of October, which is appropriately spooky.  I’ve read this in the past, so this time around, and after the success of reading Pride and Prejudice to my kids, I decided to read it aloud to my kids.  Wow, what a different experience it ended up being.

Victor Frankenstein is just the worst.  I didn’t remember much about it from high school, so it was like new to me.  And it was completely new to my kids, who threw their hands up in exasperation pretty much every single time we read it.  They weren’t expecting a whiny, self-absorbed, victim-mentality-afflicted, helpless jerk.  And every single turn of the plot was a disappointment to them.

I don’t blame them.  Without the ability to analyze it critically, the story is frustrating.  Well, with the ability to analyze it critically, it’s still a frustrating story.  The most amazing thing about the novel is Mary Shelley herself.  Written when she was 21 and living with Percy Bysshe Shelley, everyone assumed he had written it.  Her writing career never really took off, but Frankenstein was a pretty impressive one-hit wonder.

Impressive, yes.  Good?  I don’t know.  Victor is just so hard to like.  The creature is more sympathetic, to a point.  The fact that Victor and his creation are working so hard to hurt each other does illustrate how horrific codependent relationships can be.  Is that something Mary Shelley had experience with?  She sure didn’t have a happy childhood and running off with a married man when she was a teenager, not to mention mourning over the suicide of her half-sister shortly after didn’t help.  She definitely was acquainted with complicated relationships.

My kids didn’t like the book, in case you wondered.  Here is what they have to say about it.

“Meh.” 14-year-old girl

“Overdramatic.  Victor was self-centered.  I felt bad for the creature, but then he started killing people and I stopped feeling bad for him.” 11-year-old girl

“It was interesting to read the story after understanding the victim cycle.  Everyone was so reactive to each other.  Victor was a real pill.  He was super annoying.  I found it very interesting that after listening to his long whiny story, Robert Walton stood up for Victor to the creature.  It made me think, when am I being super whiny instead of doing something with my life?” 17-year-old girl

“Victor was a pill.  It’s such a broken, sad story.  The creature loved the family [the ones he observes and learns language from] and the instant they saw him, they despised him.  The family didn’t know how much the creature loved him, they just were repulsed.  It broke him and he was never the same again.  It was terribly sad.” 15-year-old girl

“Victor was selfish.  He only cared about himself.” 8-year-old boy

So there you go.  Not as great as Jane Austen for a read aloud, but we had a lot of good discussions about being a victim.

My book club had a great time with it.  I think we talked about the book for almost two solid hours.  Nobody particularly loved it, but like I said, it has lots of food for thought!

Goodreads rating: 3 stars.  I didn’t enjoy the book, but it’s got a ton to talk about in it.


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