This haunting and atmospheric novel opens with a heated discussion, as Shelley challenges the conventionally religious Frankenstein to consider his atheistic notions of creation and life. Afterward, these concepts become an obsession for the young scientist.
As Victor begins conducting anatomical experiments to reanimate the dead, he at first uses corpses supplied by the coroner. But these specimens prove imperfect for Victor's purposes. Moving his makeshift laboratory to a deserted pottery factory in Limehouse, he makes contact with the Doomsday men - the resurrectionists - whose grisly methods put Frankenstein in great danger as he works feverishly to bring life to the terrifying creature that will bear his name for eternity.
Filled with literary lights of the day such as Bysshe Shelley, Godwin, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelley herself, and penned in period-perfect prose, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is sure to become a classic of the 21st century.
©2009 Peter Ackroyd; (P)2009 Random House
"It takes a writer of considerable confidence, wit and skill to attempt a modern retelling of a bona fide English classic...[Ackroyd] is the man for the job.... terrifying and fascinating in equal measure.... An intelligent, creepily beautiful and haunted thing." (The Times, London)
Peter Ackroyd pretty much rips up the original and pastes it back together again. It's an interesting fantasia that doesn't quite work, mostly because of the ending; I didn't feel as strongly about it as some people did, but the ending is VERY abrupt.
The book is the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster transplanted to the England of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. The rough outlines of the plot are still here, but Ackroyd fills in a lot of the details: where Mary Shelley coyly avoided describing the life-giving process Frankenstein developed, Ackroyd explains it all, chapter and verse.
It doesn't matter that much of the biography and history recorded here are inaccurate. It doesn't matter that bits of the novel are mixed in with doses of scientific nonsense. It's all in fun: it's a bit like "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" in that respect.
Ackroyd had me up to the last couple of pages. But I enjoyed the rest of it so much I can't bring myself to downgrade it too badly on that account. And John Lee's narration is as buoyant and energetic as always.
Nothing of the story here is too different if you know of the infamous night Percy Bysshe Shelley,Mary Shelly and others decided to have a "ghost story" contest.Out of that night came Mary Shelly's classic book "Frankenstein:Or the Modern Prohetmus".In this story Peter Ackroyd makes Dr.Frankenstein an contempory of the Shelly's and influences their lives with his experiments to reanimate life.Lots of other famous historical figures turn up alsoand add to the plot. The story moves briskly throughout several locations in Europe ,the mystery and chase of the story plays out well this way. I wasn't bored ever listening John Lee is perfect he does all his characters and accents well.I recommend this book it's not hard to listen to and it has good suspense.
This may be the worst book I every read to the end.The writing is not bad in parts, but there are many obvious plot holes and it goes on way too long. Finally, while I will not spoil the end, the literary device with which Achroyd brings the novel to an end is so hackneyed that it hard to believe that this book is getting such positive reviews.
After finishing this book, I'm still not sure what to make of it: it's either ingenious or a total mess. Ackroyd blends fact and fiction to come up with something new, something not quite historical fiction but not quite a fictional biography either. The premise is that, long before animating a creature, Victor Frankenstein attends Oxford University, where he meets the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Frankenstein's experimentation and the final creation of life all take place in a deserted potter's barn near a Thames estuary. Shelley pops in and out, and the biographical facts surrounding his life blur into fictional events from Mary Shelley's novel. For example, the discovery of Harriet Shelley's body in the Serpentine mingles with young William's murder in Frankenstein. Here, her death is ruled not a suicide but murder: she has been strangled (like William) with a necklace that is subsequently found in her brother's pocket (as the locket with Caroline's portrait is found in Justine's pocket, both she and Harriet's brother being framed).
What to make of this? Revising and recording in his journal the "facts" of the fictional Victor's life is a clever strategy, but I found myself a bit irritated by the distortion of Percy Shelley's biography; a good historical fiction writer would not have gone this far. As a result, I found myself puzzling over diversions from Mary Shelley's novel as if it, too, was biography. Readers who are as familiar with Frankenstein as I am may find themselves lost in a strange book, somewhere between fact and fiction (but always, predominantly fiction). But perhaps this is what Ackroyd intended: to shake up our notions of reality and of genre.
Well written, and for the most part well-narrated (although there were moments of vocal excess when I thought I was listening to Monty Python). I found the first half tough going as it seemed all too familiar, but the second half was more engaging, and Ackroyd's plot resolution was intriguing. Gritty, detailed descriptions of London, as one would expect from Ackroyd, and energetic and palatable exposition of historical ideas, but Shelley & Co. were over-simplified, I thought.
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