• Frankenstein

  • By: Mary Shelley
  • Narrated by: Derek Jacobi
  • Length: 9 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 16-11-15
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: silksoundbooks Limited
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.4 (100 ratings)


The tale of Dr. Frankenstein and the horrendous monster he unleashes on the world when he tinkers with the laws of nature had almost as strange a birth as the monster itself. It was the product of one of the most famous ghost story telling sessions in history. Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and several others were stranded on the shores of Lake Geneva during a particularly sodden summer. They challenged each other to come up with the most ghastly and soul-rending story their sizable literary talents could muster, and the hands-down winner came from Shelley's wife - Mary Shelley.
The novel that emerged several years later has been recognised as one of the most chilling and gruesome horror stories ever written, and it is certainly one of the most famous. It's a moving account of a battle for independence, it's a warning against man's pride in his ability to change the world with his blind pursuit of science, it's a story of revolt and revenge and, most intriguingly, it was one of the first novels to be written where the narrator is not necessarily a reliable witness, and we are left to carve the truth of the matter out for ourselves.
This is an alarming book - in several very enjoyable ways.
Author Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1797-1851) was a novelist, dramatist, essayist, biographer and travel writer. She is, however, best known for her Gothic horror novel Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, published 1818. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Public Domain (P)2008 Silksoundbooks Limited
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Bounce on 03-03-16

Jacobi relishes the language - Superbly read.

Would you listen to Frankenstein again? Why?

Beautifully written and very poignant tale. Derek Jacobi's interpretation of the language was utterly captivating.

What does Derek Jacobi bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Quality of his interpretation of the language - he relished the words and really brought the quality of the language alive. Listening to him,I think I got far more than if I had read it myself.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, but I could have it was so brilliant.

Any additional comments?

Superb. A wonderful tale and beautifully read.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By FictionFan on 30-10-17

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”

In his youthful hubris, science student Victor Frankenstein decides to create a living being from stolen organic material, part human, part animal. When he succeeds, he is horrified at the hideousness of the creature he has brought into the world, and flees, leaving his monstrous creation to fend for himself. Hiding himself away, the monster learns by observation what it is to be human, to talk, to laugh, to love – and he wants these things for himself. But humans cannot accept someone so hideously different, so he is spurned and reviled everywhere he goes until eventually, in his bitterness and sorrow, his thoughts turn to revenge against the man who so cruelly created and then abandoned him...

Frankenstein's monster has become such a standard part of our culture, both as a scary stalwart of the horror movie and as a warning reference against mad science, that it's easy to forget just how powerful and moving the original is. Published when Shelley was only twenty, it's remarkably mature in its themes, even if the writing occasionally shows her youthfulness in a kind of teenage hyperbole, especially when the subjects of romance or grief are approached.

It is, of course, the ultimate warning against science for science's sake, untempered by ethical or safety considerations, and that theme seems to become ever more relevant with each passing year. In a world where designer babies are becoming the norm, with scientists gaily manipulating genes confident in their own power to control nature; where others talk blithely of geo-engineering as if they couldn't accidentally destroy the world in their attempts to save it; where yet others are searching for new weapons, presumably on the grounds that nukes aren't destructive enough, I'd like to make a law where every scientist should be locked in a room for one week every year and be forced to read and contemplate this book, and maybe write an essay on it for public consumption before being considered for funding.

But there's also the human theme of perception and rejection of difference – the inability of man to look past the outer crust and recognise the similarities of the soul beneath. Shelley's monster is ultimately the most human character in the book, and in the book we can recognise this in a way we can't in the movies – because although we are told of the monster's hideousness, we can't see it with our eyes. So when he tells Frankenstein the story of how cruelly and vilely he has been treated by humanity, we feel utter sympathy for his plight, though surely we must wonder in our secret hearts if we would be able to listen so patiently and empathetically if face to face with this grotesque mockery of the human form. And Shelley tests us – this monster doesn't remain good: the years of rejection and loneliness distort his soul until it is as deformed and hideous as his body. Can we still sympathise then?

Shelley doesn't labour the theme of man usurping God's role as creator, though it's there. At the time of writing, when Christianity would have been universal amongst her readership, there would have been no need – the idea of man aspiring to these heights would have been recognised as blasphemous without it having to be spelled out. But Frankenstein's punishment is harsh indeed – how different the book would have been had the monster decided to seek a direct revenge against his creator. Instead, Frankenstein is to be slowly tortured by seeing those he loves perish horribly, one by one. In the end, creator and creation are each responsible for the pain and suffering of the other, each knowing with a growing certainty that their fates are inextricably linked.

The story is told by three narrators – Robert Walton, who meets Frankenstein towards the end of his journey, in the form of letters to his sister; Frankenstein himself, as he relates his tale to Walton; and the monster's own story, as told by him to Frankenstein. The three voices are very different, and for me the most powerful part of the book by miles is the monster's story. Walton never comes to life for me, but it doesn't matter since he's little more than a story-telling device. Frankenstein's portion can become repetitive, especially when he eternally laments his woes (however justified his lamentations may be), but it is filled also with some wonderful descriptions of the natural world as he travels far and wide across Europe and then into the Arctic in his attempts first to flee his creation and then later to track him down. It's in Frankenstein's story (and Walton's, to some degree) that the “romantic” writing most comes through – the monster's story and other parts of Frankenstein's give the book its Gothic elements. There are weaknesses – an unevenness in the quality of the writing at points, a tendency towards repetition, a bit too much wailing and gnashing of teeth – but this is balanced by the power and emotion of other parts of the story. The monster's ability to master language and writing so thoroughly defies strict credulity, but works within the context of the fable nature of the tale, and undoubtedly allows him to tell his experiences with moving eloquence and great insight.

This is another of those classics which I had forgotten just how good it is. The writing may be patchy in parts but overall it's wonderful, and the themes are timeless and beautifully presented. I listened to it this time round, with Derek Jacobi narrating. His performance is fantastic – I've always loved his acting, but actually I think he narrates even better than he acts. The power of his delivery of the monster's story in particular moved me to tears and anger, and even literally raised the hairs on the back of my neck at points. And he got me through Frankenstein's sometimes overblown self-pity more easily than I think reading it would have done. A marvellous performance of one of the most influential books ever written – really, what could be better than that?

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Payne on 23-06-16

A beautiful work

What did you love best about Frankenstein?

The prose, the excellent story telling, and the simplicity of the story - It is more powerful considering what is left out, rather than included - for example, no messy laboratory scenes, or questionable science, and no religious pontificating.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The monster of course. He is the personification of Loneliness. All his actions stem from the inability to interact with another being. Not 'evil', not the absence of a soul, just loneliness.

What about Derek Jacobi’s performance did you like?

Excellent! just perfect in every way.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Obviously, many have tried, but the book is un-filmable as it stands.

Any additional comments?

An enjoyable read- and the perfect audio-book as all is related in epistolary form.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Brian Zohner on 29-12-15

A Great Performance for a very Boring Story

I wasn't really sure what I was getting into when I picked up this story. It was clearly written in a different time and for a different audience.

First off, Derek Jacobi does an impressive job trying to bring life to a very old story written in flowery and overly elaborate language. He holds Frankenstein's German accent excellently for most of the book, and doesn't miss a step when he switches over to other voices.

The story itself actually startled me, in that it had virtually nothing in common with the old 1930's movie. The moral was more or less the same, warning of the dangers of working with science that we do not understand. The structure to the story reminded me a lot of Lord Jim, being told as a story within a story within a story, though it had less of the startling moving through levels of story telling that Joseph Conrad hit you with.

The language was frustrating at times, not because of its complexity, but because of its repetition. When a character started waxing dramatic, they would make the same declaration over and over again, to the point that I found myself wishing for the Boris Karloff monster, who could only grunt and growl. I think it was pretty clear that the author was married to a poet and thus had a high exposure to elaborate writing.

Probably the most interesting thing about this particular book is the relationship between Frankenstein and the Monster. You can see reflections of one in the other, creating a bizarre newton's cradle effect, where the actions of one amplify the problems of the other.

Basically, if you're looking for a story about technology run amok, you're going to be badly disappointed. If you're looking for a cautionary tale about science by delving into the mind of a mad scientist written in very formal and archaic prose, this is a book for you.

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9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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