The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, a novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Book details About the author

H. G. Wells is a name to conjure with. Classic stories about time machines, invisible men, alien invasions and more. He was one of the earliest genre writers in a time when the idea of genres did not exist. He just wrote what he felt like. A modern author who has taken on this mantle is Silvia Moreno-Garcia whose books may be any genre in nature; gothic, horror, crime, a reader does not know until they pick up the book. In The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Moreno-Garcia is adapting a classic tale and, of course, making it her own.

Hidden on the remote Yucatan peninsula is a sanitorium ran by the enigmatic Doctor Moreau. Here the doctor experiments on hybrids with an aim of creating the perfect mix of animal and human. The doctor is not the only resident, his loyal daughter Carlota helps with the running of the house and treatment of the hybrids. Montgomery Laughton is a more recent addition, hired to help manage the estate. Life is quiet until Doctor Moreau’s debts are called in. No longer can Carlota lead her sheltered life, she must confront some truths is she is to save the estate and the hybrids that she has come to call family. 

Taking on a massive IP that is out of copyright is a brave undertaking. You want to pay homage to the original, but also bring something new. Moreno-Garcia is a champion of place and character, and that trend continues again in Moreau. By moving the location to Yucatan in 19th century Mexico, Moreno-Garcia can paint an evocative picture. The estate may be remote, but it still has interactions with people, from the nearest town to the rebels living in the nearby jungles.  

It only takes the author a page or two to transport the reader. Once again, this is a place that I have never read about before, but I never felt lost. Moreno-Garcia is able to explore Mexican history, concepts of gender and class, whilst never alienating the reader. I would be happy just to read a history book by the author. 

The world building is strong in this book and to make the most of it, Moreno-Garcia has populated with some interesting characters. The book is mostly told from the perspective of Carlota and Mongomery, usually in turn. In some cases, the same events are covered twice as we witness events from both. The relationship between the two of them is key to the drama in the story. It is a relationship led book, but there are other dynamics too. The relationship that they both have with the Doctor and hybrids under their care. The events in the book boil down to caring for others. 

The setting and time period gives the book a costume drama feel with strong emotions. Many of the characters are trapped in situations not of their own design be it due to gender, class, debt or how they were created. Most of the book is set in one location and has an intimate feel to it, the provocateurs in the story are brought in from the outside and their actions upset the balance within the estate. 

Daughter has a classic feel to it and borrows the feel of a late Victorian novel but has a modern sense of character and politics. This book seamlessly blends a sense of the old with the new, creating a new story that respects Wells, but will always be in Moreno-Garcia's distinct style and voice.  

Written on 19th July 2022 by .

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