Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The New Annotated Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; edited by Leslie S. Klinger (1818; 2017)

Just in time for the 200th anniversary of the (first) publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein comes this sumptuously annotated version.  I had never actually read the novel before.  I thought I knew the story; and while I had a grasp of the broader details; there was plenty I did not know - and Klinger was there by me all the way, sometimes holding my hand.  At least I knew that the monster was not called Frankenstein.  I did not know the monster spoke French.  Or that Victor Frankenstein was Swiss.  Or that the book is a whole bunch of letters from a Polar explorer named Walton to his sister back in England.  Or that Mary Shelley may have been writing about what it was like to go through postpartum depression after having a baby and perhaps thinking about destroying it (as Victor wanted to destroy HIS baby).  There was so much!  It's also, quite frankly, some times something of a slog.  The last third or so is the best part of the book - the murders of the monsters, the chase around Europe, and that part ended all too quickly (shhhh, don't tell anyone I got bored; that makes me sound like a cretin).  There are also lots of really great pictures in this book; and some incredible information about the Shelleys, who were very ahead of their time (and perhaps ahead of our time too).

The New Annotated FrankensteinThe New Annotated Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first time I've ever read Frankenstein (I've also never seen the old Boris Karloff movie), and I think I picked the right edition. Leslie S. Klinger was there with me the whole way through, annotating away, and I was very much glad for it. Frankenstein SEEMS like a short book, but it is a dense book. I think most people know a little bit about Frankenstein (I've seen Penny Dreadful AND Young Frankenstein, plus The Munsters, so I had that little dangerous bit of learning). I did not, however, know that the monster probably spoke only French; or that Victor Frankenstein and family was Swiss; or that the entire book is an epistolary novel (and an ingenious one at that). The book has incredibly good illustrations (including a really kick ass cover) and also has some great biographical information about the Shelleys at the beginning - who were very much ahead of their time (and perhaps ahead of our time too). There is a TERRIFIC essay by Frankenstein(ian?) professor Anne K. Mellor at the back too - be sure and do not skip it.


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