Sunday, February 17, 2013
How Mad is the Madman?
The Island of Dr. Moreau is synonymous with mad scientist, but has anyone truly delved into the depths of that madman? In Megan Shephard's book, The Madman's Daughter, we see a side of Dr. Moreau we have never seen before- the side that has a daughter.
Juliet not only bears the stigma of her poverty and being an orphan, but she is double damned by carrying the same name as her father, Dr. Henri Moreau. After being charged with the crime of conducting horrific experiments, Moreau disappeared and was presumed dead. Years later, Juliet comes across one of his vivisection diagrams and realizes her father might still be alive. When she tracks down the Inn where a strange doctor is staying, she expects to find her father but instead finds his most loyal servant, Montgomery. Juliet and Montgomery were children together when her father was still in London, but seeing him there, a grown man, Juliet can't help but be drawn to him, especially when he can help her find her father.
When Juliet insists on leaving with Montgomery to travel to her father's island, she didn't expect to see the kind of cargo he would be taking with them. Multiple types of animals from a jaguar to simple rabbits accompany Juliet, Montgomery, and the strange Balthazar, a native from the island. Along the route to the island, the ship finds a man stranded in boat drifting at sea. They rescue him and bring him to the island of Dr. Moreau, but Juliet has no idea what she has brought them both to. She never could have imagined what was taking place on her father's island. But Juliet can't ignore the signs, the strange natives, and certainly not her father's laboratory. She is terrified to learn the charges against her father in London were true, and that his experiments have gotten more horrific, and more dangerous. But can anyone really get away from the island?
I have always been morbidly fascinated by The Island of Dr. Moreau, so this story was a must-read for me. And I have to say, having read the original, I am happy to report this was an excellent rendition of H.G. Wells' story with a few tweaks and changes to keep you engaged. First and foremost is the addition of Moreau's daughter, and this creates an amazing dynamic. We know a man can detach himself from society's morals and ethics, but can a father really detach himself from the opinions of his own daughter? I won't answer that for you, but you can see how it adds a new layer of depth to this story.
And Juliet herself was a character with so many layers you never truly found yourself to the heart of who she was. While she was horrified by her father's experiments, she also couldn't deny the draw to her knowledge of the experiments and the scientific brain of hers, even though she was a woman and women at that time were meant to focus on needlework, not science. Her struggle with her morals and her scientific curiosity was addictive, and quite frankly, it kept me plowing through the chapters of this book. The book does have some incredibly graphic surgery and vivisection scenes, so I think it would be a good book for an older student. I think the story is close enough to Wells' original story that a student can really understand the original story from this book, but it might be interesting to have them read both and compare the two. And having discovered that Shephard has two more books for this series, I can tell you I can't wait to see where the story goes! This was a phenomenal start, and it can only get more interesting!