Frankenstein is a story that I’m sure most people have at least a vague knowledge of. The basics; Dr Frankenstein creates a being constructed of pieces of of freshly dead people, stitched together, and brought to life using a jolt of lightning – I could use that first thing in the morning.
The first Frankenstein interpretation I ever saw was Boris Karloff, shown below in all his undead glory.
In the Karloff version, Frankenstein is raised from the dead and stumbles off into the night, where he bumbles through day to day life, not understanding anything, and wreaking havoc in the nearby countryside. This is the tale I’ve always known of Frankenstein, and the plethora of movies that it spawned. When I first saw Penny Dreadful, I thought the interpretation of Frankenstein’s monster as a manic, depressed, thoroughly bitter and miserable character who was able to speak and convey himself well, as totally refreshing. I’d never read the novel, so it caught me by surprise.
Realising that I’d never read the novel, I decided to get it on Audible, as I so often do – little time to read and a million things to do, Audible is the best fit. The first thing that struck me was that it was entirely from the perspective of a ship’s captain, who is writing a series of letters to his sister, about the strange events in the North Pole, where he sees a huge humanoid on a sled pulled by dogs. A while later, he comes across another man, near death, who he nurses back to health. The second figure is Dr Frankenstein, who is relentlessly pursuing his creation with an intention of the final showdown.
Once recovered, Victor Frankenstein regales Walton with the events that brought him to the North Pole, and this, is the story.
The story itself is notably different from most interpretations of it, so much so, that the narrative surprised me. It is substantially different, but also brilliant. Shelley has done a wonderful job of showing the doctor as a broken man, his one goal – to track down and confront his creation. Rather than the silent behemoth that is shown in the older films, the monster is, as previously said, a very angry and bitter being, who goads and threatens Frankenstein, and even does some other pretty horrible things out of spite.
Throughout the novel, I found myself wondering whether the monster’s actions were justified – him being built and ‘reborn’ into a cold body rather than being left dead – and whether Frankenstein was fair to resurrect the body (or bodies…).
As I rate Derek Jacobi, it made the story all the better, and I really enjoyed his narration, with different voices for different characters, and he really managed to bring the story to life. With a combination of his narration and Shelley’s writing, it definitely get’s my recommendation.