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Summary

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

What listeners say about Frankenstein

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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.

12 people found this helpful

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Now I know the REAL story

Great to hear this book as Frankenstein on TV or film does not reflect the true story. Realised I felt sorry for the creation and he was no real monster. Read wonderfully by Mr Jacobi, as anticipated. Great listen.

4 people found this helpful

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How is this a classic?

Dull, dull and dull. It’s just a long-winded complaint from a thoroughly unsympathetic and simple character. No depth, no redeeming qualities.

2 people found this helpful

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Accent too distracting

Jacobi does a German accent throughout that was very jarring. Couldn’t settle into it. The story is wonderful but going to try another narrator.

2 people found this helpful

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“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?

8 people found this helpful

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Epic performance!! Masterpiece!

Derek Jacobi narration has no equal. His passionate, heartfelt interpretation dint fail single time to send shivers down my spine! I wish there were more title narrated by this excellent actor.

4 people found this helpful

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Different from what I had expected

The narration was overdramatic and detracted.from my enjoyment of the story. The story itself was very different from what I had expected, but interesting nevertheless.

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The accent became unbearable after a few chapters

Great book but terrible narration.
I found the heavy accent very unappealing
so gave up and changed to the Dan Stevens version, which is excellent.

Not sure why I'm not able to enter a higher rating for the story. Seems to be a bug in the review interface.

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To be, or not to be: that is the question

Mary Shelley’s classic psychodrama asks searching and powerful questions about man’s relationship to the divine. Can limited, mortal man create life, other than in the divinely sanctioned way (i.e., procreation)? Should he? And if he did, what would he create: a noble being, or a monster?

Structurally, the book seems rather influenced by the ‘play within a play’ scene in Hamlet, as at one point — from Chapter 11 onwards — we are presented with a story within a story within a story.

Derek Jacobi’s narration is characteristically Shakespearean. This suits the high-flown melodrama of the tale. Admittedly he struggles with the demand to narrate most of the book in a Genevese accent, but this is entirely forgivable.

Well worth listening to, and inevitably far deeper than any of the cinematic adaptations.

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Best voice for this...

I loved listening to Derek Jacobi read Frankenstien, the different voice's and accents used made it esay to tell which narrator was talking a the time and added to the emotion of some scenes. He has such as soothing and easy to listen to voice even when being the gruff sounding creature.

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  • Val
  • 01-08-18

Not really unabridged

Does not match the original publication text. Customer service could not help me find one either.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Payne
  • 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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Katherine Mills
  • 22-02-19

Great Voice Talent

Love Derek Jacobi’s voice. Made my favorite novel even more enjoyable. This makes the 4th time “reading” the novel.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sam
  • 09-07-18

Not the story you see in film

This book is trying. Victor Frankenstein’s take is drawn out, wordy and full of misery. The sheer quantity of self pity and self loathing wears the reader out and leaves them not really enjoying the tale. The creature while still full of loathing and pity at least resonates on some level. Derek, in his sing song narrative did well enough but I won’t be returning to this story anytime soon.

5 people found this helpful

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  • judith"court of justice"
  • 06-03-18

Derek Jacobi is a god

Derek Jacobi is a god and I will listen to any audio book he narrates.

5 people found this helpful

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  • secchawk
  • 18-12-19

fake accent takes away from story

Mr Jacobi's fake and phony accent completely ruins the story for me. Why couldn't he just read the story in his own accent?

1 person found this helpful

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  • steven
  • 22-10-16

absolutely loved it.

One of my favorite classics with a fantastic voice for each character. Brought my love of the story back to life!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Brian Zohner
  • 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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Charles Bowers
  • 20-02-21

Narrated a bit too slowly, but still well done

My homeschooled 15 yo student and I felt it was a bit excruciating to listen to it being read at such a slow pace. However, it was easier than reading it ourselves.

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  • Kim
  • 09-02-21

Great Narration but Weaker Edition of the Novel

One thing many people don't know about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is that she substantially revised the text about 15 years after she first published it. I prefer the original 1818 text, and Audible has an audiobook (narrated by Nico Evers Swindell) that matches the 1818 version. At least three other Audible offerings I tried follow that longer 1831 revision, including this version with Derek Jacobi.

Jacobi is phenomenal in his reading of the text, but as I teach the original version of the novel, I cannot use this audiobook in class or with my reading-challenged students. Sigh!