Frankenstein- Mary Shelley [Review]

“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.” (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

 

13096261992What a masterpiece! I have been meaning to read Frankenstein for so long and finally I did it. I should have done it ages ago. Now my gothic literature trilogy is done; Dracula, Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (review to come).

Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, the son of a prominent Swiss family who seems to have everything: wealth, youth, family and friends. The novel begins in the bleak North Pole, on a boat trapped in ice with Captain Robert Walton’s crew. Captain Walton finds Victor Frankenstein who is near death and chasing after a monster. While recovering Frankenstein narrates his story to Captain Walton.

Victor Frankenstein starts by telling the reader about his family and origins. He always had a burning desire for knowledge which takes him to Ingolstadt University in Germany and studies science. There his passion leads him to perform a deed as terrible as it is marvellous. He finds the secret of life itself and builds a man, a monster of a man and gives him life.  Soon Frankenstein realises what he has done and he is disgusted by his creation. He thinks of it as an abomination, rejects him, runs and hides from it.

The monster is never given a name. He is referred to as the monster throughout the novel and Frankenstein calls him everything from demon to ogre to wretch. Shelley’s depiction of the creature is marvellous. She could have made him look like a zombie-like monster or a terrifying creature, ’alien-looking’, but she presented him with a brilliant mind and a heart, a complicated heart but still a heart. All the monster wants is love, acceptance and to be understood. He exclaims to his creator ”I am not a monster. I have feelings just like you”.  The agony he feels comes across so real that you cannot help but feel sorry for the monster and hate Frankenstein for what he has done. I am going to admit that I for one feel sorry and pity for the monster and I can see where he is coming from. I do not like Victor Frankenstein one bit. He is arrogant, self-righteous and selfish. The monster is more sympathetic than his creator. All he wants is acceptance and love.

The fact that the monster is more likeable or more sympathetic than Frankenstein is one of the reasons that make this novel so great. It is not a horror story; it is a tragedy, a sad story. It explores the emotions that one who is rejected goes through and the actions that result from that rejection. The novel appears simple; scientist creates monster, monster goes on rapid murderous spree, scientist tries to stop it. However, by the end of the book the reader realises it is not that simple and is left wondering who was really evil. It is a serious story that shows the implications of science, of the consequences of someone playing god.41wmhy-xrxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

The book is written as a series of narratives in the first person. One of the narratives is the monster’s perspective. In the middle of the book, the monster takes over detailing his first steps into the world and the terror he stirs in people.  It is daring of Mary Shelley to do this, but by doing this she is giving the monster a human side. The monster having been rejected by his creator and by the world flees. He is ‘born’ into a frightening and hostile world that immediately banishes him from everyone. Even his creator, who he sees as a father, rejects him and is scared of him. The monster, alone, flees and lives in a forest nearby a cottage. There he observes the family (that live there) and through them learns the way of man; reading, writing, speaking amongst other skills. One day he feels brave enough to present himself to the family hoping for acceptance. He does not get it and from that the real monster emerges. First, he is sad, then, he is enraged. The real monster is created by the hatred and frivolity of other humans. Banished and angry with humanity, the monster seeks revenge. He who has not done anything is called a monster and is feared because he is different. The monster falls victim to humanity’s prejudice and cruelty. His innocence has been corrupted by man and becomes the monster everyone thinks him to be.

It can be said that the story would have been different if people were less judgmental, a little less scared and more understanding. But then we would not have Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. How was Frankenstein created? Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 18 years old. One evening, she along with Lord Byron, her husband and poet Percy Shelley and John Polidori, while staying in a cottage near Geneva, decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story.  Mary Shelley wanting to prove her worth to Lord Byron spent nights thinking of a story. Eventually she came up with Frankenstein, creating a masterpiece and introducing to the literary world the most important monster that will haunt us until today. Definitely give it a read. It will be worth it. Trust me.

 

”I am not a monster. I have feelings just like you” (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

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Trade Wind- M.M Kaye [Review]

”An enthralling blend of history, adventure and romance”

Not so long ago, I wrote a review about M.M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon. I did love that book, still do. After reading that my mum suggested Trade Wind. She guaranteed that I would love it also. By god she was right. Now I don’t know which one is better, Shadow of the Moon or Trade Wind? I cannot decide, they are both equally as good.

Whereas Shadow of the Moon was based in India during the Indian Revolution in 1856-7, Trade Wind is based in Zanzibar in 1859. Zanzibar was the last and largest centre of the slave trade. Hero Hollis, our main protagonist, is the niece of the American consul in Zanzibar and a passionate opponent of slavery. Her main mission is to travel from America to Zanzibar and try and stop the slave trade. Soon she involves herself in a revolt that sweeps the island, and then cholera breaks out.Trade Wind

A story full of action and drama. A book that I could not put down. Hero Athena Hollis is a handsome, courageous, wealthy American who travels to Zanzibar after her father’s death. Her journey to Zanzibar was anything but smooth. She finds herself caught in a storm and soon is thrown overboard, thought to be  dead by her fellow companions. She is then fished out from the harsh sea by a Captain Emory Frost. Rory Frost is scandalous, gun-runner and slave trader; everything Hero stands against. You want to hate him but you can’t. Rory delivers Hero to Zanzibar without realising what a beauty he has had on his ship, as Hero was battered, bruised and sick from her fall in the ocean. Probably for the best really! Once in Zanzibar, Hero finds herself joining a plot against the Sultan (with the best intentions as far as she is concerned)in order to throw him off the throne and his younger brother, Yabid Bargash, to take over.

M.M. Kaye’s story is rich in historical detail and background, the storylines have depth and scope. Kaye’s description of Zanzibar is just magical and so colourful. Images of an exotic paradise  of shimmering sand beaches, crystal waters, and perfumed with the scents of blooms and trees. But, there is also the horrible side of Zanzibar, that of squalor, filth and disease. When Hero arrives to Zanzibar she comes across with the sight of slaves being thrown overboard , being sold or just transported. She is horrified, and cannot believe a place as beautiful as this can be at the same time horrible and barbaric. The contrast between the eastern and western cultures is interesting and thought provoking. Hero soon comes to the conclusion that her noble mission to stop slavery might not be as simple as she hoped.

Hero can be seen as naive and spoilt. She thinks that she can change the world despite Rory Frost telling her it is not that easy. She soon realises that everything is not black and white as she originally thought and you get to see Hero mature throughout the book and gain a perspective that is more realistic. She becomes more open and warm. We also get to know Rory Frost’s background and the reasons that led him to be who he is and do what he does. Hero and Rory’s relationship is intriguing, and despite the fact that when you began reading the book, you could see their differences, slowly but steady you understand their attraction for each other and can see it developing into something more.

There is a particular scene in the book that a lot of readers were appalled by and in a way ruined the book for them. I am not going to say what the scene was in case I spoil it for anyone who wants to read this book but I will say this. I will acknowledge that this particular incident is very controversial, but for myself, I can see why M.M. Kaye put it in the story. If you think the context of the plotline, the time period  and maybe the motivation of the lead male character, I believe the action was well justified. I will be honest and say that when I first read this particular scene I was angry, frustrated and shocked. I did not know whether it would make me change my appreciation for the main male character. After thinking about it and when I read his reasons for doing so I could see the importance of ‘building of character’ and the necessity of it later in the story. However, I do understand if other readers will not agree with me.

The characters in Trade Wind are well drawn and some you hate and some you love. From the beginning of the book you know there is something strange with Hero’s fiancé, her uncle’s stepson, Clayton Mayo. He turns out to be exactly what you think and in some certain circumstances he will surprise you. Like in Shadow of the Moon there is always another female character who you dislike at the beginning but in the end turns out to be a respectable woman and a great friend to the main female character. After Rory Frost and Hero I think my favourite character would be Batty, a sailor on Captain Rory’s ship, who was a rogue through and through, but also has a heart. He is the loving uncle who would protect Rory as best as he could and tell him when he is being a scoundrel and wrong. The Sultan is also an interesting character. Rory Frost is his confidant and great friend and can manage to get away with a lot because of his connection with the Sultan.

M.M. Kaye has a beautiful way with words. Her knowledge of the far East shines throughout the book. She stays as historically accurate as she can and she does not hold back when it comes to the customs of Zanzibar, the slave trade and the cholera epidemic. Once again, just as she did in Shadow of the Moon, M.M. Kaye shows us how different the west and east are. How they both have completely different cultures and traditions and will probably never see things the same way. Trade Wind is a beautiful tale that will get you hooked from the first page. I would recommend to any historical fiction lovers, any M.M. Kaye lovers or to anyone who wants to try something new.