Ackroyd being the expert on London and the Romantics, is in his perfect element here, as he winds through the delicate passages of Shelleyan research that he has impeccably dissected and rearranged in order to form his own grotesque monster-myth. Frankenstein has always been a firm favourite of mine, and I was a little doubtful as to whether I should read Ackroyd’s fictionalised version of events. To be honest, I was a little scared that I might be disappointed in discovering yet another clumsy rehash of the classic story – but I was wrong. Ackroyd’s fine-tuning of the essays and academic findings regarding Mary Shelley‘s modern classics shows his attention to detail. A turn of phrase, a meaningful allusion placed in the right moment adds a well-structured depth to the simple story of the man who deigned to be the modern Prometheus.
The special thing about the book is that it’s both highly readable for the average reader, yet shows it’s academic foundations very clearly to those who know a bit about the prose and poetry of the era, especially of Byron, the Shelleys, Polidori and Godwin. The scenes of 19th Century London were also vividly brought to life. There were moments were I could almost smell the filth of the city. I also enjoyed the description of the grave-robbers, which were a reailty back in the 1800’s.
I derived more pleasure spotting the moments where Ackroyd used his historical sources (even going as far as guessing down to the essay/works it was derived from) to support his dynamic storyline. The only weakness I can speak of that truly hampered the plot, is the weakness of the creature (though his confrontation with Victor was a watered down version of the one in the book) and the ending itself. Not to spoil the book for anyone, in case they should decide to read it, I will only say this much; it was a bit of a cheap trick Ackroyd… I’m sure you could have done much better than that.
So far I have read one other novel by Ackroyd, and that is ‘The Lambs of London‘. I can honestly say that ‘The Casebook of Frankenstein’ is by far his better novel.
I give this 3/5 stars.
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- Books Worth Buying: Frankenstein by Nick Dear (based on the novel by Mary Shelley) (tarasphere.wordpress.com)
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