Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd

19th century London is brought to life in Peter Ackroyd's retelling of Mary Shelley's classic. In The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, the titular character becomes friends with Percy Shelley while studying at Oxford and Percy (and his wives) become key players in the story of Frankenstein's monster. To fully connect the Shelleys to Frankenstein's tale, Ackroyd brings his characters to Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva to visit Lord Byron and recreate the environment in which Mary Shelley imagined her Frankenstein.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is neither better nor worse than the original, it is just an interesting take on it. At some points the plot follows the original fairly closely, at others it departs quite significantly (the same could be said of Ackroyd's version of Shelley's lifestory).

Ackroyd portrays both Frankenstein and his monster quite sympathetically (less so, Byron and Percy Shelley). He also does a wonderful job of explaining the science and philosophy of the period, as well as describing the overall atmosphere of that London (complete with resurrection-men). The ending of the novel is a bit rushed, but given the final plot twist it makes sense for it to be that way.

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