Book Review: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau
Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest horror recalls Victorian-era classics
In 2020, we named Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic as one of our favorites of the year. In her latest, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Moreno-Garcia continues to impress with her signature style and ode to classics.
Growing up on a secluded estate on the Yucatán peninsula in 19th century Mexico, Carlota is the only daughter of Doctor Moreau, a man whose research is being funded by the wealthy Lizalde family. Along with the doctor and his daughter lives Montgomery Laughton, overseer of the estate and assistant to the doctor with his scientific experiments — most notably the hybrids, creatures the Lizaldes see as viable replacements for plantation labor.
The hybrids are part-human, part-animal monstrosities, confined to the estate and designed to blindly obey their creator, but each holds their own personality traits and characteristics, some of whom Carlota has grown fond of and befriended.
For years the estate has lived in a balanced harmony, with each inhabitant performing their duties to keep things running smoothly. It seems that the group would continue in this stasis until Eduardo Lizalde, the son of the doctor's benefactor, disturbs the delicate peace. What follows is a dangerous chain reaction that sends their idyllic world into complete chaos, bringing to light secrets and passions that were previously hidden.
Moreno-Garcia's beautiful prose is reminiscent of 19th century classics by the likes of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, easily and seamlessly blending science fiction with the classical style, a difficult feat to say the least.
Dazzling characters and backdrops throughout help to bring this story to life. Carlota's beauty and personality shine through, while the doctor's genius or madness — depending on who is consulted — both bring forth a mysterious element that propels the narrative. The hybrids and their traits, both human and animalistic, are the finishing touches necessary to solidify the intrigue in the novel's mystery.
Somehow, Moreno-Garcia's writing transcends the era in which it was written to transport readers to a forgotten time, providing an escape into the past for those stuck in the present.
Del Rey // 306 pages // Historical Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction