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Book Review

Book Cover

The Madman's Daughter


Author: Megan Shepherd
Harper Collins / Voyager
RRP: £7.99, US $9.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 750020 8
Available 11 April 2013

Juliet Moreau survives each day as a cleaner in a teaching hospital since her father, a renowned surgeon, was vilified for his experiments. The life she has built for herself starts to unravel when she discovers a vivisection diagram which she recognises as her father's. The trail leads her to an old friend and eventually to her father on a small island, still continuing his work. The island holds horrors, but the biggest horror which torments Juliet is the suspicion that she carries within her part of her father’s madness...

The Madman’s Daughter is the first in a new trilogy by Megan Shepherd, based on The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), by H. G. Wells. The book retains many of the original characters whilst injecting Juliet as the new addition.

It’s an odd thing when a writer takes an already established work and puts their own spin on it; there is a real dilemma whether this is a clever move or just a case of lazy ideas. Still, the process has an honourable tradition, without which we would not have Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966).

The book tries and, for the most part, succeeds in creating a gothic horror feel, especially in the first and last thirds. The central section consisting almost entirely of a love triangle, which doesn’t fit in with the rest of the novel as well as it could have, as Juliet’s suitors are both pretty unconvincing as possible mates for a headstrong and intelligent young Victorian woman.

Is Juliet mad? Certainly the opening chapters point to something possibly odd about her. Cutting the head off a rabbit, for whatever reason, should leave a gentile Victoria woman affected, but Juliet is able to perform the act without batting an eyelid.

Obviously, there is a twist, or at least an illumination coming at the end of the book to explain her behaviour and thankfully its one that is difficult to discern, so that when the truth about Juliet is revealed, it really is a surprise.

Although well written, the inclusion of the love triangle pulls the narrative off course, which it only regains once the protagonists reach the island. Having resolved the issue with Dr Moreau, Shepard will now be on her own for the remaining two books and it will be interesting to see where she will take her central character.


Charles Packer

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