Ackroyd’s Frankenstein

I read Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein this last April. I’d been inspired to do so after reading an announcement that Timur Bekmambetov is planning to direct a film adaptation of the book. I’d heard of the book when it first came out but my interest in reading it had been tempered by my having read that Ackroyd mixes the story of Frankenstein with the biography of Shelly. Percy Shelley, not Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly. And, honestly, I don’t have a lot of interest in Percy Shelley. These days I get a lot of my reading from the library and the process of reserving a book on line is really simple so I went ahead and ordered. And once the book arrived I read. That’s probably obvious, right?

It reads like Ackroyd was a fan of (Mary) Shelley’s novel and who, being also a writer of biographies and a fan of Percy Shelley, decided to combine his interests. And write a logical, realistic novel than (Mary) Shelley did. Which he does. Ackroyd spends a lot of time with Frankenstein’s research into bringing life back to the dead. No longer is the Monster a stitched together giant. Now he’s a recently deceased fellow who had willed his body to science. Frankenstein is no longer the insufferable self-absorbed whiner. He no longer abandons the Monster – the Monster runs away. The Monster kills a couple of people and then feels bad about it. Maybe it’s all a dream or Frankenstein is insane.

Ackroyd even rehabilitates (Percy) Shelley by having the Monster kill his first wife instead of her killing herself after Shelley abandoned her as happened in real life.

I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the novel. I did. It is well written. Better written, certainly by today’s standards, than the Mary Shelley original. It has a plot where consequences follow actions, characters who are have some depth and nuance and the number of highly unlikely coincidences are kept to a minimum. I’m sure that it could be the basis for an entertaining movie.

2 thoughts on “Ackroyd’s Frankenstein

  1. I recently re-read the original novel, and an entertaining thought occurred to me. Walton’s sister has all these letters in Britain. What if someone there got a hold of the letters and contacted the German government with intent to corroborate the story, digging up Frankenstein’s notes and apparatus along the way? What would this technology do to the time period, and what would it do to the political power of Germany and Britain? Think of it, men possessed of unnatural strength braving Africa and the Yukon, taming those lands a hundred years earlier; slaves killed and packed like corkwood to be revived on the other side of the sea, and the debate over property when governments start ruling that rights are only for the living, and becoming a corpse is an abandonment of those rights…

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