Audiobook Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Author), Kenneth Branagh (Narrator)


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Published: Novel (1818); Audiobook (24 August 2017)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Category: Science Fiction/Classic

Kenneth Branagh, director and star of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, provides one of the most spectacular spoken audio performances ever recorded in this electrifying audio adaptation of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece.

One of the greatest horror stories ever written, Frankenstein comes to spellbinding life once again in this tour-de-force performance by the acclaimed director and star of Henry V, Dead Again, and Much Ado About Nothing. The definitive recording of one of the most haunting tales of all time, Kenneth Branagh’s performance of Frankenstein is a true audio classic.

Rating: 4 Stars

I never got the chance to read this text during any of my English classes growing up. Hoping to read more classics, I started Frankenstein this year around this time because I wanted to read a book considered that felt seasonally appropriate and when you think of a classic monster movie, Frankenstein is an answer that comes up quite a lot.

I’ve seen interpretations of Victor Frankenstein and his Monster/Creature before, but not having had the original material to judge against, I’ve formed opinions of those interpretations on their own, such as Victor and Caliban in Penny Dreadful. After reading Mary Shelley’s original novel, I find myself wondering how I could have waited so long to read such a well written book and also how any one could find themselves firmly on Victor’s side of events.

Before I state my specific opinions on Victor’s behavior, let me comment on Shelley’s writing and its endurance so many years later. Her novel, the first science fiction novel, has many themes which can be discussed repeatedly with different audiences because each will have their opinions to add to it. While being a highly philosophical text, there’s also the nurture vs. nature argument with relation to Frankenstein’s Creature and Victor’s treatment of him following his birth/creation. The characters themselves offer much speculation that can be dissected in a discussion, whether one or the other was right, what the rights of the Creature might of been, and who’s ultimate fate was right or who deserved better.

For my part, I disliked Victor intensely throughout the novel and found him to be a wholly un-salvageable character. He at turns seemed to realized that he was guilty of leaving people to stand in place for things which were his fault, but then he would do nothing to save them, such as Justine, a young woman who by parts is framed for a murder by the Creature who could have been saved by Victor, but is ultimately executed. Even on his death bed at the close of his novel, when I thought that he might at last realize that his fate was ultimately the result of his own disastrous decisions, he proved that he had learned nothing through the loss of so many people.

There were briefs moments in the book when I thought Victor showed some semblance of intelligence, such as his hesitance to build a bride for his Creature. The Creature’s loneliness is so absolute, his anger so hot, that he forgets that he would likely be condemning any bride to a similar fate in his quest for companionship. In this father and son are very much alike.

How much of Victor’s trouble with regards to his experiments and the resulting Creature were the result of his own vanity? To start there was his deciding to play God with no regard for whether he should rather than could, but then the appearance of the Creature. It seems as though Victor’s abhorrence of his creation stems primarily from the perceived ugliness and disregard for any quality he may possess. An insane amount of difference would have been made if Victor had nurtured his son rather than abandoned him to the cruelty of the world, explained things rather than fled the room and left the Creature to his own devices. What, then, would life have been like in that alternate reality? What kind of science could Victor have pursued if his prejudice against his own work not been so absolute?

I wish that I had had the chance to read this in a critical setting because it seems to me to be one of those classics that ages well and would bear up well under questioning, pulling at story threads, and interesting interpretations that different readers might think up over time.






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