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The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein [Paperback]

Peter Ackroyd
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

2 April 2009

Victor Frankenstein begins his anatomy experiments in a barn in the secluded village of Headington, near Oxford. The coroner's office provides the corpses he needs - but they have often died by violent means and are damaged and putrifying. Victor moves his coils and jars and electrical fluids to a deserted pottery manufactury in Limehouse. And, from Limehouse, makes contact with the Doomesday Men - the resurrectionists.

Victor pays better than any hospital for the bodies of the very recently dead. Even so, perfect specimens are hard to come by... until that Thames-side dawn when Victor, waiting, wrapped in his greatcoat, on his wooden jetty, hears the splashing of oars and sees in the half-light that slung into the stern of the approaching boat is the corpse of a handsome young man, one hand trailing in the water....

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099524139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099524137
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Product Description


"A thrilling concoction ... Ackroyd's telling of the tale is a worthy revival - I found his book so creepy I kept the bedroom light on all night" (Daily Express)

"A brilliant jeu d'esprit. Above all, it stands as a tribute to the power of the human imagination" (Daily Telegraph)

"Ackroyd takes Mary Shelley's hint of a doppelganger and plays with it fascinatingly in a fast-paced thriller which also nods towards the notion of split personality enshrined in Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde... The novel leaps to its climax nimbly as a pursuing fiend, adn ends suitably in fiery revelation" (Michele Roberts Independent)

"Distinguished Frankensteinian fantasia...Ackroyd loves taking what we, the general reading public, think we know about great writers, only to twist that knowledge into new fictional shapes....Ackroyd is the great pretzel-baker of contemporary fiction. And this is one of his tastiest, and twistiest, products so far" (Financial Times)

"Terrifying and fascinating in equal measure" (The Times)


"..a brilliant jeu d'esprit. Above all, it stands as a tribute to the power of the human imagination" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By G. J. Oxley TOP 500 REVIEWER
In this, Ackroyd's latest novel, Victor Frankenstein is a contemporary and companion of Percy Bysshe Shelley at Oxford before Shelley gets sent down for publishing an atheistic pamphlet. Frankenstein eventually cuts short his own studies and joins his friend in London. Here he attends lectures on the new science of electricity and as an amateur anatomist wonders if it can be used to reanimate corpses.

After inheriting money upon the death of his father, he makes the acquaintance of a group of resurrection men who provide him with the cadavers he needs for his experimentation. But he unwittingly unleashes a terrible beast into the world...

I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I have all of Ackroyd's fiction (and non-fiction) that I've read. Here he carefully interposes a fictional character created by another writer - i.e. Victor Frankenstein - into the lives of real historical (mostly literary) figures, and adds his own excellent fictional characters to the mix - Fred Shoebury, his mother etc. He's done this many times before of course, and this is one of his strengths.

The author has great fun with the major poets of the period. In addition to the fanciful and excitable Shelley, he also has cameos for Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth, among others and there's lots of scholarly in-jokes (you won't believe the former identity of the monster he creates!) However, his greatest portrait is that of the fiercely intelligent and impulsive Lord Byron, who grows increasingly impossible and fiery as he's taken over by the demons that live within him.

And as Shelley's in here so is his wife Mary - the writer of the original `Frankenstein' novel. One scene is set in the chateau near Lake Geneva which saw the genesis of the original book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing romp 3 May 2009
By Abec7
I bought this on impulse as the free book in a "three for two offer" as I have always been fond of the original novel by Mary Shelley and was curious to see how a post-modern rendition of the tale would play out.

It is a fast-paced novel and, thankfully, a quick read. The story bounces along with a great deal of energy but the narrative has no real substance. The characterisation of the working class owes much to Dickens with their cheeky cockney wit and tendency to malapropisms. While this may have been acceptable in the Nineteenth Century, it seems a lazy trick to rely upon now. Shelley and Byron have some verisimilitude but ultimately read as caricatures than considered portraits. Victor himself is an engaging narrator but many of the scenes he recounts leave one with a sense that the author has failed to realise the vision that arose in his imagination and has merely sketched an outline. I was uncomfortable too by the diminishment of Mary Shelley's achievement by the implication that she was only capable of retelling a drama played out before her eyes rather than the creator of a complex and philosophical idea.

It is, however, the ending of the novel which really offends. Unlike another reviewer, I had early on wondered if I had guessed at the conclusion but discarded the idea as simplistic and obvious. Sadly, I was wrong and the 'twist' played out as I had predicted. As Andrew Motion noted in his review in The Guardian, it is akin to the 'it was all dream' cliché. Up until that point, I would have recommended this as an airport novel, to be read and discarded as ephemera. The conclusion enraged me to the extent that I cannot now even make that recommendation. Read the original instead. It is far more satisfying.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, evocative and page-turning 22 Sep 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an intriguingly-imagined and compelling story, mixing the startling and often heart-breaking exploits of the fictional Victor Frankenstein with real-life characters of his era, including Shelley, Byron, and Frankenstein's original creator, Mary Shelley. The writing is exquisite, and if Mr Ackroyd let any modern expressions slip through the net, I didn't spot them (and I am a pedant about such things...) The atmosphere and imagery of early 19th century London is so vivid it's almost possible to smell the river and the cobbled streets and gaols, and to see the resurrectionists striking their repulsive bargains with the infirmaries. The story unfolds with the measured control of a master and is a wonderful journey. The ending is absolutely remarkable - as a professional writer I should have spotted what was coming, but I didn't!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nineteenth century galvanism *** 1/2 stars 4 Dec 2008
By purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
`I was born in the Alpine region of Switzerland, my father owning much territory between Geneva and the village of Chamonix where my family resided.'

The novel starts in typical gothic mode with where the protagonist was born and grew up - here it is the Alps where the young Victor `exulted in storms'. He is `blessed by the poetry of nature itself' and wanting to learn the `secrets of nature', and of electricity in particular, he persuades his father to let him come to `practical' England to study at Oxford. There he becomes great friends with Percy, known as Bysshe, Shelley and later stays with him and his second wife Mary at Lord Byron's holiday villa near Lake Geneva. We all know that this is where Mary Shelley wrote the original Frankenstein as the house party amused each other with ghost stories. It was an amazing feat of the imagination for a nineteen year old - she was fascinated by the emergence of the power of science and by questions of what was monstrous in wanting to understand and to create life. In this novel she has been demoted from creator to small speaking part - it's ironic that that here she is robbed of her best known creation since she is so associated with feminism through her mother Mary Wollstonecraft.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein mixes fact, nineteenth century fiction and Ackroyd's twenty first century fiction with abandon. Harriet Shelley's life diverges most obviously - rather than being an educated daughter of a wealthy coffee shop owner here she is a East End girl working on a precursor to a factory production line. Harriet is murdered before Shelley meets wife number two in this alternate universe whereas in reality Shelley and Mary eloped whilst he and Harriet were separated.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book let down by its ending
I feel quite reluctant to give this book three stars as up until the final chapter it was gripping, atmospheric, thought provoking and very hard to put down. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Adam
2.0 out of 5 stars A very pale shadow of a great book.
As much as I enjoy Ackroyds writing for his character portrayal and setting- it was hard to see a purpose to this book as it plods along telling the story of Frankenstein (Mary... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Sennytor
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Thriller From London's Master Of Literature
Ackroyd is a great writer, arguably England's finest, and this book is one of his most charming, weaving together his wealth of knowledge about London with plausible fabrications... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Clifford
3.0 out of 5 stars In two minds
I'm not really sure what to think of this book. There used to be a time that I would buy any book, both fiction and non-fiction, by Peter Ackroyd and be sure I would not be... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Didier
3.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction
The Casebook a bit of a (Frankenstein's) monster of a novel, revivifying the corpse of Mary Shelley's novella and grafting on various disfigured bits of history. Read more
Published on 20 April 2011 by CN Smith
While reading this fasinating novel, it felt as if it was written by a great victorian novelist such as Charles Dickens or Willie Collins. Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2010 by Carole A. Freeman
4.0 out of 5 stars "Did I ask you to mold me? Did I solicit you to take me from the...
A gifted story teller, Ackroyd weaves fact and legend into his gothic horror story as the young twenty something Victor Frankenstein, bolstered by the passionate throes of science... Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2009 by Walter Hypes
2.0 out of 5 stars Terribly disappointing
Oh dear! Not too many years ago I couldn't wait to get my hands on a new book by Peter Ackroyd. Then came his leaden biography of Shakespeare and "The Lambs of London", a... Read more
Published on 8 Sep 2009 by Yorkie
4.0 out of 5 stars A postmodern prometheus
The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is a super novel and one which gets better and better as it goes on. Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2009 by Olly Buxton
1.0 out of 5 stars A Pale and very unsatisfying copy of the original
I bought this book in the hope that it would be a good read, considering all the praise that had been given by various critics, unfortunately I was not just disappointed in this... Read more
Published on 14 May 2009 by Mr. P. Wind
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