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The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 6, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
When two nineteenth-century Oxford students--Victor Frankenstein, a serious researcher, and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley--form an unlikely friendship, the result is a tour de force that could only come from one of the world's most accomplished and prolific authors.

This haunting and atmospheric novel opens with a heated discussion, as Shelley challenges the conventionally religious Frankenstein to consider his atheistic notions of creation and life. Afterward, these concepts become an obsession for the young scientist. As Victor begins conducting anatomical experiments to reanimate the dead, he at first uses corpses supplied by the coroner. But these specimens prove imperfect for Victor's purposes. Moving his makeshift laboratory to a deserted pottery factory in Limehouse, he makes contact with the Doomsday men--the resurrectionists--whose grisly methods put Frankenstein in great danger as he works feverishly to bring life to the terrifying creature that will bear his name for eternity.

Filled with literary lights of the day such as Bysshe Shelley, Godwin, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelley herself, and penned in period-perfect prose, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is sure to become a classic of the twenty-first century.

Peter Ackroyd on The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein

It is of course obviously true that Frankenstein is a wonderful story, and I was eager to see if I could extend it in other directions. It is a myth and a history, an allegory and a nightmare. I wanted to see if it was possible to maintain all those elements in a re-interpretation of the original text.

I had been greatly impressed by Mary Shelley’s original, but I was eager to tease out some of her assumptions and themes.

I had always been interested in the Romantic movement of English poetry, in the early nineteenth century, and the story of Victor Frankenstein allowed me to explore all the possible meanings of "romantic" in that context. This also meant that I could discuss the worship of electricity and new science in the period. But it also allowed me to introduce the "real" characters of Byron and others into the plot. I wanted to set the story in London, as a way of re-imagining and re-creating the nineteenth-century city. I also wanted to see if I could recreate the language and texture of the period so that the reader would feel connected in an intimate way with a culture and civilization that have now disappeared.

In that I was greatly assisted by the fact that I wrote and presented a series on BBC Television, entitled The Romantics, which allowed me to suggest the lines of continuity between Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and of course Mary Shelley herself. All of these people appear in the novel itself. I was also helped by the fact that in the course of filming I went to all of the sites that appear in the novel itself, particularly the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva where Mary Shelley had the original inspiration for her novel. We spent one night filming there, and on the balcony of the house I had an intimation of the novel I was about to write.--Peter Ackroyd

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Medical student Victor Frankenstein imbibes fellow student Bysshe Shelley's belief in the perfectability of mankind and strives to create a being of infinite benevolence in this recasting of Mary Shelley's horror classic from Ackroyd (First Light). When Victor reanimates the body of acquaintance Jack Keat, he's so horrified at the implications of his Promethean feat that he abandons his creation. Outraged, the Keat creature shadows Victor as an avenging doppelgänger, bringing misery and death to those dearest to him. Ackroyd laces his narrative intelligently with the Romantic ideals of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, and deftly interweaves Victor's fictional travails with events of the well-known 1816 meeting between the poets that inspired Mary to draft her landmark story. His hasty surprise ending may strike some readers as a cheat, though most will agree that his novel is a brilliant riff on ideas that have informed literary, horror and science fiction for nearly two centuries. (Oct.)
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; 1st U.S. Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385530846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385530842
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,626,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is a super novel and one which gets better and better as it goes on. Peter Ackroyd is well known as a contemporary authority on London, and few writers today or at any time previously have so single-mindedly memorialised this wonderful city: Ackroyd has written not just London's widely acclaimed Biography, a companion piece about the Thames: Sacred River that flows through it, and biographies of its more famous sons (William Blake and Geoffrey Chaucer) and some historical fiction largely set in the city.

In this context it comes as no surprise that Peter Ackroyd's reworking of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is also set largely in the city, despite the original's setting in and around Geneva. On a broad scale Ackroyd's historical themes are unified: the galvanic force of electricity invigorates and brings life; in the same way the river flows through and animates the great metropolis.
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Format: Hardcover
The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd is a retelling of the gothic classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. As with all retellings, one approaches the new version with trepidation. Is there a need to retell a story that has already been told so well? Will this version offer anything new or interesting? What, if anything will be lost in translation?

When I began the novel, I stepped back a bit from my own expectations and tried to allow Ackroyd to give me the pleasure of revisiting a story I found compelling and provocative. I quickly realized that story is told in first person by Victor Frankenstein I was put off. After all, for all intents and purposes, Shelley's version is told in the first person. Is there a need to tell the same story in the same point-of-view? My resistance grew, mostly because what details were added are lu1rid or meant to be salacious (after all, Shelley could not dare write in detail about erections and penises, could she?). Sadly, they are also predictable. Characters enter the stage with the inevitability of their future clearly evident.

But of course one would expect a story that is retold to be somewhat predictable. And the fact is, for those readers who are disinclined to read classic literature because it is tedious or tiresome or the tone too archaic, Ackroyd's choice to tell this story again serves a purpose. He departs enough from the classic by inviting Mary Shelley herself into the cast of characters, along with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. The flavor of London is very well written. One cannot argue that Ackroyd knows his history and contextualizes the story both in content and voice. His ability to weave details leaves few, if any, stones unturned.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ackroyd has to have a portal into pre-20th century England and Europe. He has this knack of taking us back to those days and immediately immersing us into that society. We travel with Victor Frankenstein, Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron as the events unfold.

The Editorial Reviews and blurb by Ackroyd above will tell you plenty about the goings on. We take a tour that is more mystery than horror as Victor experiments with his electrical fluids.

This is a page turner - the finish comes too soon. The author's language puts you in the period without hitting you in the head with it. He delves in depth with the story and doesn't bore the reader with the superfluous.

If you have a liking for Victorian England, Frankenstein stories and a good yarn - grab a copy, brew a cuppa and enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover
Ackroyd's new version of the classic tale by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is interesting and clever, but ultimately unsatisfying because it fails to explain Dr. Frankenstein's obsession with creating life, leaving his actions inexplicable. But the same criticism can be applied to the original version (which I read for the first time after reading Ackroyd's novel). In both versions, Frankenstein becomes obsessed with understanding the secrets of nature and life while still a child; but neither author really accounts for his obsession. Additionally, Frankenstein in both novels lacks moral integrity; he creates his creature but recoils in disgust from him, leaving him alone and confused. (I avoid the use of the term "monster" and use "his" and "him" instead of "its" and "it" intentionally since it is actually the scientist rather than the creature who is monstrous.) Shelley and Ackroyd both make it clear that the creature's evil acts follow from his abandonment; Shelley makes it absolutely clear when the creature narrates his story to his creator that he was actually born with a pure, almost angelic spirit capable of love and goodness. Only his rejection, first by Frankenstein and then by the family he has secretly helped and protected, turns him to evil. While Dr. Frankenstein's immorality and strange obsession is part of the warning about science that Shelley was imparting, they make him an unappealing character hard for readers to care about.

I actually like Ackroyd's version more than Shelley's. While Shelley deserves the credit for her imaginative creation of the Frankenstein tale, her writing style is excessively romantic and melodramatic.
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