Readers celebrated Mary Shelley’s 222n d birthday last month and many avid fans, including myself, took this opportunity to reflect on Frankenstein and Shelley’s impact on the sci-fi and gothic genre. Frankenstein was revolutionary because Shelley was the first to create a horror story on this level. The story of Frankenstein was developed when Shelley was challenged by her writing peers, such as Lord Byron, as well as her lover, Percy Shelley, to tell a ghost story in Lord Byron’s villa in Switzerland. Shelley came up empty every night when asked, and she was “forced to reply with a mortifying negative”. However, the creation of the monster appeared to her in a dream later on, and thus, Frankenstein was born. Shelley revolutionised the sci-fi genre by being the first female author to take such risks with publication – she first published the novel anonymously but by the third edition, she had heavily revised the text and was now known as the author. To this day, Frankenstein has been adapted in various different ways, from films, TV shows, and plays. Shelley’s novel is known worldwide and Frankenstein has become embedded into the world of popular culture.
Here are a list of three books which are similar to Frankenstein in ways that you might not have realised:
Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
Set in Ireland, Castle Rackrent follows the decline of an Irish family, and focuses on their ruined marriages and estates. Castle Rackrent may not have a monster that faces a philosophical battle between life and death, but it certainly has the gothic elements that Shelley is so wonderful at conveying. Maria Edgeworth isn’t as well known as I’d like her to be, despite the fact that she and Shelley were both writing at around the same time, which is why Castle Rackrent is the perfect gateway novel into more of Edgeworth’s fantastic Irish writing.
Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier
Daphne de Maurier’s Rebecca is a strong favourite amongst those who love classics such as Shelley, as well as the Bronte sisters, but is again lesser known, much like Maria Edgeworth. The novel follows an unnamed heroine who is forced to live in the shadow of her husband’s first wife named Rebecca. Despite the fact that Rebecca is the title character, and one of the most important characters in the novel, readers never meet her. A whirlwind Gothic romance with some very surprising twists, Rebecca is one not to be missed.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
A more modern book! Shirley Jackson is the author of The Haunting of Hill House, which has recently been adapted into a gothic/horror Netflix series (if you haven’t watched this, then I suggest you drop everything and binge watch it after you finish reading this article). Some readers, however, may not be aware of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and that is quite a shame. Completely haunting and sinister, We Have Always Lived in the Castle follows the mysterious death of an entire family, apart from two sisters, and their Uncle Julian. It’s incredibly unnerving and will give you some intense goosebumps while reading it, but I cannot praise it enough – female gothic/sci-fi writers such as Shirley Jackson are so underrated, which is why this is a strong recommendation from me.