I read Frankenstein this month for The Classics Club October Dare. I’m a procrastinator, so I’m really lucky that I have a review done at all; I’m actually proud of myself since I did think ahead, takes notes, and make an outline. I just didn’t leave myself enough time for a couple drafts. And I have more words on this book/the background than the close to 1,000 below.
I’d never really wanted to read Frankenstein; I am not drawn to horror which is what I thought this book was. I procrastinated to start it, and then quickly realized that the book is incredibly dull, predictable rather than suspenseful and frightening. Then I procrastinated because of the tedious verbosity and dull, slow (because of said verbosity) plot. This book requires far too great a suspension of disbelief and not for creativity but for plot holes and devices. I knew some of the circumstances of the writing, written by a teenager during a sort of dare (although undergoing revisions, possibly with her eventually husband’s help). But because it was a classic I was expecting a solid story and prose vs obviously written in Romantic vein by uncontrolled, undisciplined teenager! I think it is famous for the barest plot concept that more recent portrayals have developed and that readers then insert into the story.
This book features absolutely atrocious prose. I was gagging over the stock Romantic language and expression; the flowery verbosity and excessive, sanctimonious and fawning emotionalism and sentimentality. The author is tedious and repetitiveness with details that take away from the story rather than add to it. These fountains of extraneous detail fill in most of the story which would have little substance else because concepts pertinent to the plot are vague and general. And I didn’t find a hint of irony in all this language either.
In amidst all this fluff, some scatter trails of a plot float. With much unrelated verbosity we are get the story from various narrators in a general and literal way (and Frankenstein continually drops spoilers). Everything has told us by the author via her narrators rather than displayed via art; she gives no detail (regarding the actual plot), not from mystery, but from ignorance and lack of creativity. In addition to having a spare plot delivered literally, the plot has so many devices, holes, and implausible points. Shelley exhibits total unawareness of any other class than her own (and any other point of view than her coterie) and this leads to so many of the issues.
Let’s start with Victor Frankenstein, who by the by is no doctor but a pedantic, spoiled, sheltered, young fool. Because of these things, I don’t see how he had: 1) the ability to pursue this creation; he very obviously isn’t the brightest, 2) the interest/passion to pursue such a thing (so little reason had he that I assumed his friend would die and he would revive him, nope, he is just playing around, and he didn’t seem to have passion for anything except whining and protestations, 3) the stomach for such a task; he was such a hypochondriac and always talking about his delicate sensibilities, and 4) the will for such a task; he is indecisive, passive, and lazy elsewhere in the story, dragging his feet at every turn.
Now onto his implausibly created monster. He isn’t described and since the author doesn’t forget any other descriptions (however poor they are and however little they apply to the story), this doesn’t come across as mysterious but rather a lack of creativity. Everything about Frankenstein’s creation is implausible; he has a fully developed mind with the elasticity of a child’s brain with the thought processes of adults. His mind is full of Romantic sensibilities which he quickly taps into thanks to the improbably (and highly Romantic) circumstances of finding himself by educated people who coincidentally aid his learning. All of this is too convenient. He could have had the soul of a demon or another dead person or the mind of the person whose brain Frankenstein gave him. He could have truly come from nothing, truly a blank slate in which case he would have had the mind of an infant or an animal.
In the same vein, a double-minded author doesn’t equal a truly conflicted villain; that requires insight and talent. He comes across as a psychopath; only when he gets what he wants does he act anything like appropriately, his manipulations and revenge, his complaints and reviling, his vicious triple murders (two of which were in cold-blood, the other a child murder) of innocent people to wreak personal revenge all point to psychopathy. His rage isn’t the bewildered, blind lashing out of the abused and abandoned by humanity (that is also implausible, no one gives him any aid at all?), it is very specific, clever revenge. He goes from zero to one hundred in this quite fast. Of course, there are inconsistencies here, sometimes he does rage against humanity (from his tiny experience).
Overall the moral issues are grossly and falsely simplistic expressions of false choice moral “dilemmas”—more from inconsistent plot and lazy thinking, ignorant/irresponsible idle upper-class perspectives than from any understanding of the complexities of human nature and circumstances. All sorts of misunderstandings of duty and virtue. Virtue doesn’t turn to evil; doing good in good times doesn’t make one virtuous; the monster wasn’t ever virtuous, nor did he try. As to the idea that Frankenstein is the villain, I don’t think the story has the depth and irony; I don’t see any irony at all in Victor Frankenstein’s portrayal; I don’t think Romantics understood or appreciated in since they enacted in their own lives as well as in their stories such drama that is ludicrously ripe for satire). I think we can get deep discussion out of the plot and morals (or lack thereof) in the book, but that fact doesn’t make the novel itself deep.
After reading, I immediately had to look and see what other reviewers thought on Goodreads. This review expresses my opinions (and I’m sure others) in a hysterical way.
I had tried this novel before and this time around I took awhile to warm up to it, but then I enjoyed it greatly. Well, I enjoyed the Wellers immensely anyway.
The plot was intentionally mishmash, if you could even say that the book had a plot. The tone varied from the lightest type of humor to rather serious at times to more sophisticated humor and many blends of all these tones.
I could feel that this was Dickens’ first novel; his deep characters could be a little stock and his caricatures a bit shallow. I suppose he had not gotten into his characterization stride yet. Mr. Pickwick himself was rather a sanctimonious, pompous prig who was often rather rude to poor Winkle. Winkle’s cowardice and ineptitude could be funny at time but painful at other times. Mr. Snodgrass was my favorite of the quartet but received the smallest attention. Dickens rather abruptly dropped and picked up characters in this novel.
In the Wellers Dickens gets very near to his later greatness. “Samivel” “Veller” and his father were definitely both the most excellently created and developed characters and my favorite ones. Often I find lower class accents in Dickens’ novels irritating (that could be because the characters are usually irritating people), but I enjoyed the Wellers’ accents.
This novel is not superb compared to Dickens’ later works, but for a young man in his mid-twenties it is a brilliant first novel. And there dies any mercy for all the so-called “writers” that are all over the home-schooled/ Christian fiction internet world.
Just read them.
I read them.* I loved
himthem. I refused to read the sacrilegious last “book.”
*I still have a few I need to order through interlibrary loan, but I think those might be mostly collections.
I recommend complete ignorance for first time readers (which means do not read covers, reviews, prefaces, chapter headings, and etc.). I remembered a little of what my sister told me (albeit it was sometimes quite a distorted memory) as I read and constantly referred to the headings of future chapters.
Oh, Eugene. Eugene! Oh, Julius Handford/John Rokesmith.
I enjoyed this book intensely, even thinking that it was my favorite Dickens’ novel . . . until the last 100 pages after which I felt hoodwinked.
This novel took me back to Dickens’ characteristic humor which was rather lacking in Little Dorrit and Bleak House. Three marriageable, wonderful heroes. One sweet heroine. One annoying (first because of being a brat, later because of being a baby). 3-2=Mortimer is mine!
One thrilling love scene when John comes bursting in on Bella and her father which was rather spoiled after the last 100 pages. Actually, I (heartlessly) enjoyed the scene of his first proposal because of the disparity(?) in John Rokesmith and John Harmon’s reactions.
Eugene is a work of artistic skill in himself. As is Bradley Headstone or at least the description of his behavior, thought processes, and etc. The Eugene and Lizzie dynamic is intriguingly intense and unique. All of the multitude of characters in this novel are interesting.
I had seen this book appear on a couple blogs, but our library did not have it at the time and bought it on my recommendation but forgot to put in on my request list, so I only recently discovered that the library had it. Definitely worth the wait. Read for the first time in total ignorance (I only new a very little and what I did not was distorted/far less important than I thought so did not really mess up my reading experience). Realistic dismal and dreary sections. Mercifully short miserable sections. Wonderful humorous sections. Beautiful nature and introverted-homey sections. Romance. Perfect, one-of-a-kind hero. The end.
I think that part of the reason why I have enjoyed some of the Dickens and Eliot books so much is because I am quite unfamiliar with the stories. I also greatly enjoy the writing style; so much so, in fact, that I do not have to love the characters (or many of them at least) to enjoy the book.
I would have liked Daniel Deronda far more if not for his-not-truly-honorable interactions with Gwendolen. Sometimes it is enough for actions to be bad if they look bad. Gwendolen had no reason to have confidences with a man not related to her and not her husband, and Deronda had no business receiving them.
Gwendolen was obnoxious. Grandcourt was awful, but I think that Gwendolen deserved some awful. I hate the might-have-been implied/hinted at between Deronda and Gwendolen although I was relieved that he never actually liked her too much. But still. I hate salvation separations from outside or offensive party’s side! And the Deronda/Gwendolen interludes are so intense especially compared to the (far fewer) depicted interactions with Daniel and Mirah.
Mordecai is rather weird and the Hebrew issues are disturbing, particularly as religions are portrayed relatively. There are some passages that are freakishly prophetic though.
I liked Hans and Sir Hugo although they are underdeveloped characters.
There are some humorous incidental sentences that made it into my quote book. I am not sure that I will reread this novel though; I found it interesting and enjoyable, but I preferred Middlemarch and Adam Bede.
Hello from Princess Procrastinator. Here is my Poirot collection “review” written who knows when after reading who knows when. If you want a shorter version it is this: I am not a fan.
These are pretty silly and melodramatic although apparently some such as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express are supposed to be considered “good” mysteries, and they may stand a little above Christies other works in plot, but the quality of composition and characterization is still considerably lower than Doyle’s and Sayer’s work (particularly the latter’s). And often the plots of Christie’s works are so fantastic that they are absurd. Cheap and attention-catching but flimsy.
Oh . . . and the little issue of Holmes-baiting (but, since of course he cannot be baited, it is only an attempt at baiting). Um, DO NOT YOU DARE touch him. You are not worthy to touch the ground he walks on. A few pokes must be allowed in order that Holmes worshipers not be thought pompous but this goes too far.
I have some notes from reading The Big Four (notice the title mock) for example, but I think that they are on my dead computer. I will just have to edit this disgustingly late post even more obscenely later. Everyone will live. Adieu,
So I did not entirely like this novel. Oh, I enjoyed it while I read it, but I found many aspects that I did not like.
I found Esther rather irritating. I thought her false modesty and silly “innocence” of why other people like her was extremely annoying; true humility and goodness do not focus on self at all. She spoils her character by speaking, and her character would have been better not displayed in first person. I thought her silly humility rather out of character for Dickens; I feel like he usually caricatures this type of person.
Mr. Jardyce annoyed me because he avoids issues instead of repairing them. I loathed Mr. Skimpole* and the way Mr. Jardyce aids his leech behavior is disgusting. Speaking of disgusting, how gross and selfish of Mr. Jardyce, who might almost be Esther’s grandfather, to propose to Esther?! I had wondered before I reached this point in the novel whether or not he had been in love with her mother.
I did not really feel sorry for Lady Dedlock. She is so selfish and proud. She had married into great wealth and made herself famous. She does not help Rosa, except to thwart Mr. Tulkinghorn, I think. I felt sorry for Captain Hawdon. I want to know why Hawdon and Lady Dedlock had not married. What happened? Whose fault was the separation? I kind of wondered/wished she had been the one who broke off the connection. Had her sister a hand in it? I did not think that Hawdon was the Willoughby type at all. Plus he had kept her letters. He had sent her letters of instruction. He helps poor Jo. If Lady Dedlock did not know that the baby survived, I wonder if Hawdon ever knows about the baby at all. What were those letters of instruction George Rouncewell delivers to Esther? George seems to be very loyal to Hawdon as if Hawdon deserves some help or has some merit. I do not like all these unfinished ties.
Ada Clare and Allan Woodcourt do not have enough character development. Except towards the end they have hardly even any personality. I liked what glimpses and shadows of Allan I saw until I received a chill at his reaction poor Jo.
Jo is probably my favorite character in point of unmixed favor. George Rouncewell comes next in that respect. Poor Jo. What cruelness and neglect and manipulation he endures at the hands of the evil and/or more noticeably selfish characters and the world in general. What cold “pity” and “aid” the “kind” characters extend to him! And this: “He wos wery good to me, he wos” . . . and his tears!
I felt the number of the characters more in this novel. Everything seemed less developed and every character either barely connected (the Jellybys)* or too connected. I know Dickens has random characters, but often they are harmless and/or turn out to be more important than first appears. Not so in this novel.
* All of these characters are typical Dickens caricatures or displays of certain types of troublesome people; I appreciated them for that because, as is usual, these descriptions of error and selfishness ring quite true.
The miniseries preview first somewhat inspired me to know this story. I was not ready for Dickens at this point, and when I picked up the book and perused it, Mr. Clennam’s age and that awful Pet disgusted me. I still loathe Pet and her family. How dare she exist for Clennam to love. How dare he love a young woman who is not Little Dorrit. I hate that it hurts him for so long, and it is not him that separates them but her. If he had ceased to love her, that would make all the difference in the world. I wish she had turned out shallow, so that he never could have truly loved her.
I do not mind his first love; he was younger then and does not love her at the time of the story. She and her “mermaid” manner and her extremely convoluted speech and Clennam’s reaction to her, both his diffident gentlemanliness and his embarrassment are quite interesting, if not often hilarious, moments in the story.
I loathed Mr. Dorrit; his conceit is tangible. And of the most irritating kind, sensitive. The rapier sort. I pitied poor, sweet Mr. Frederick Dorrit, and later I pitied the ill-fated Edward Dorrit. Fanny and Edmund Sparkler. They provided another rare glimpse of humor in this novel. The way Fanny “shuts him up like a box”!
I feel like the story had some loose ends with Arthur’s story, with not fully explaining (at least to my understanding) Mr. Merdle’s story, and with the mystery surrounding Miss bitter.
But oh, the end when Arthur is in the Marshalsea. When he finds out Little Dorrit loves him. When he loves her. Oh.
I find it incredible that anyone could remain “team Phantom” after reading the novel (not that I really sympathizing with him much anyway). By the way, the Viscomte de Chagny is 40ish year old Philippe and Raoul is his 20 years younger brother the Comte de Chagny. Christine Daae is Swedish, and Carlotta is the Viscompe’s mistress. Madame Giry is an old, ignorant, superstitious woman. The narrator is sort of part of the story as is an old Persian. The Phantom’s name is Erik.
When the Viscompte comes looking for his brother, the Phantom knowingly lets him fall in one of his death traps and die. We hear the bell and guess what happens, but Raoul and Christine have no idea until after the contest with the Phantom. Yes. Take that in. The Phantom was also quite willing to torture people to death, and he made torture instruments as part of his former occupation. He was a socio/psychopath. This story is written in a sketchy, “ghost story” sort of manner. Here a source of information, there a clue; here a rumor, there a witness. Nice and creepy. I really want to see the Paris Opera House.
The tone of this book was better than Unnatural Death plus for Wimsey, more personal (although much less than in Clouds of Witness). Less ghastly and only one murder. One love match. More mystery.
Actually, towards the end the detectives make discoveries so fast and reveal so little that I was bewildered and thought that I had skipped something. On further thought, I decided I liked this twist in the style.
And of course Wimsey is hilarious, and I garnered more quotes for my quote book. Parker and Wimsey’s habit of irritating each other—marvelously soothing!
I started/skipped through this novel a couple times, so I was familiar with much of the story. The beginning is so gloomy I just picked up where I started last year.This book seemed to have a series of hurdles I had to overcome. The first is the Murdstones, but I had mostly got through this period last year. Then there is a time of hardship before he meets his aunt. Then a respite and oh, my word, the interlude chapter is just richness. After the respite: The Steerforth Delusion and Looming Doom. Yes, please let that storm break, and DAVID WAKE UP. Next to the smaller hurdle of the Dora delusion. Actually that period was not as bad as I was expecting—I found much of it quite amusing. Then David takes his time falling in/declaring love to Agnes.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel, more than I was expecting. I really learning to enjoy Dickens’ style of writing with his insights into human and nature and his way of revealing those and his humor.