In my review of Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor, I mentioned how I have never read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I wanted to make this fun, for me and you, so here’s what is happening. Instead of a traditional review, I’m going to be sharing my chapter by chapter reactions over several posts. Those posts will be on Friday, because, well, Frankenstein Friday. Get it? I’ll be starting the posts February 3.

I read the Norton Critical Edition (1995), edited by J. Paul Hunter. When I bought it, the second edition wasn’t available yet, but it looks like it has interesting contents.

A quick note about editions. Norton uses the original published version of Frankenstein, published in 1818. (Apparently, technically the “original” Frankenstein is considered to be Shelley’s original manuscript before her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited it.) What’s fascinating is that Shelley (for purposes of my posts, Shelley is Mary Shelley) published a second version of Frankenstein in 1831. Aside from the “what’s the real text,” or “what did she change and why,” I love that it’s an example of an author not letting go of their work. I love that it’s something that happened in the early nineteenth century, but it’s also something that happens today. Stephen King, for example, published the “complete” version of The Stand; the Wall Street Journal recently called ebooks the “books that are never done being written” because it’s so easy to go in and revise.

Frankenstein (1818) was originally published in three volumes by Lackington, Huges, Harding, Mavor & Jones, London. While I was aware that “one” book used to be printed in several volumes, I wasn’t sure of the “why” behind it. For those of you who, like me, were computer science majors or some other not-English major major, here is what Wikipedia has to say about these “triple decker” novels which were pretty standard in the nineteenth century: “The format does not correspond closely to what would now be considered a trilogy of novels. In a time when books were relatively expensive to print and bind, publishing longer works of fiction had a particular relationship to a reading public who borrowed books from commercial circulating libraries. A novel divided into three parts could create a demand (Part I whetting an appetite for Parts II and III). The income from Part I could also be used to pay for the printing costs of the later parts. Furthermore, a commercial librarian had three volumes earning their keep, rather than one. The particular style of mid-Victorian fiction, of a complicated plot reaching resolution by distribution of marriage partners and property in the final pages, was well adapted to the form.”

What does this remind you of? I KNOW. Ebooks, right? Take a long novel, divide it into three parts, price Part I to whet the appetite for Parts II and III!

I’m in the process of drafting my Frankenstein posts; once they are done, I’ll post the schedule in case anyone else wants to read along.

5 thoughts on “Frankenstein

  1. I didn’t know about the two versions of Frankenstein! I just read it this past November, and will have to go back and check on which version it was. Either way, I found it to be a very interesting read, and a great example of Romantic literature. Looking forward to your review!


  2. I think I’m going to try to read along with you! I’ve been meaning to read Frankenstein ever since, at a writer’s conference years ago, I heard an editor and writer talk about the process of writing the oh-so-intriguing picture book, Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, by Sharon Darrow.

    Anyway, thanks for this motivation to finally make a start!


  3. Ooh, yay! Frankenstein is one of my favorite classics because it really makes you think about the labels we ascribe to people without ever knowing both sides of a situation. Plus, knowing a bit about what Mary Shelley had just gone through in her personal life adds another dimension to interpreting the book.

    I really really hope you enjoy reading it and I’ll be looking forward to your Frankenstein Friday posts!



  4. I was not a fan of Percy Bysshe Shelley after the 1818 Preface. It gave the impression that he was co-author, which unfortunately many still maintain. I imagine this is what prompted the second Preface in 1831 where Mary Shelley seems to go to lengths to stress that “I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband.”

    Rant over! Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!


  5. Annie, what’s interesting about the 2 versions is that when I read some of the criticism/essays about Frankenstein, it’s clear some are about the first version, some about the second.

    Sondy, start reading!

    Lori, thanks!

    Maeve, I’ll be looking at the Percy Shelley intro when I’m done these chapter posts. What I find fascinating is the input Percy had on the manuscript; the over flowery wordy language that is a turn off for me (or, rather, makes me roll my eyes and think either get to the point or did anyone ever sound like that) came from him, it seems.


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