I first read Frankenstein as a teenager and found it to be a thought-provoking, challenging read, and so it continues to be, even after numerous re-readings.
For those unfamiliar with the story it follows the lead character of Victor Frankenstein, who becomes obsessed with creating life, and eventually succeeds, only to abandon his creation, which has taken the form of a hideous monster. Frankenstein soon becomes all too aware of the consequences of this decision as the Creature he made enacts his revenge, and makes a disturbing request of Frankenstein: that Frankenstein creates a companion for him.
The story follows three main narratives: the letters from Walton, the explorer determined on finding the North Pole, at the start and end of the story; Victor Frankenstein’s feverish tale of the life he created; and within the centre of the story, the Creature’s narrative, showing his desire for companionship and loneliness.
Frankenstein is a story that always provokes multiple readings and responses. Who is the real monster? Does responsibility for events lie with the Creature, who commits cold-blooded murders throughout, or with Frankenstein who so cruelly abandoned the being he brought into life? Where should our sympathies lie as a reader? We are deliberately presented with many examples of the single-minded pursuit of individual ambitions and desires (including those of Walton) and I think Shelley wants to leave the reader considering the dangers of selfishly chasing one ideal with no consideration to the well-being of others.
Ultimately though, this is a page-turning, exciting story – gothic, early science fiction, horror. The absolute best moment by far (to my mind) has to be at the beginning of chapter 5, when Frankenstein finally achieves his pursuit of creating life. It is atmospheric, unsettling, wonderfully gothic and never fails to send shivers down my spine.