Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – 1818
It’s Halloween weekend, so there’s no better novel to shine a spotlight on than Frankenstein – if not the grandaddy of the gothic horror genre, then it was certainly at the first family picnic. Not only is this story’s status as a dark masterpiece solid and well deserved, but it’s always up there in the discussion for one of the best novels I have ever read.
Mary Shelley published Frankenstein when she was twenty years old. Are you kidding me? Twenty. Just let that sink in. Completing a novel at that age is one thing; writing a very good novel at that age is another; and writing a very good novel in a genre that was still in its infancy when you sat down with your typewriter, is quite amazing!
Frankenstein is a morality tale that as well as being frightening, also has an unexpectedly good sense of humour, thanks to an extremely well developed central character who occasionally finds himself in completely inappropriate situations. The novel also possesses a surprising level of subtlety that I didn’t expect on the way in.
Shelley’s legacy would have been cemented right there, even if she had never written another word. Next year the novel will be two hundred years old, and if you can show me even half a dozen full length horror tales that are better, I’ll not only be very surprised – I’ll probably call you a liar as well.
And yes, we should all know by now…