I have been a fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s writing since I did the blog tour for her novel Mexican Gothic. It was a heady mix of fear, desire, and strange happenings, with a feisty heroine with fabulous dress sense. Of course it also had a gothic mansion, decorated with wallpaper printed with wandering mushrooms. Since then I’ve become less keen on wallpaper and mushrooms! I also went back to her previous novels- one of the greatest pleasures a bookworm like me can have is to find a new author then find they have a long back catalogue of books to get your teeth into. I went back to the incredible Gods of Jade and Shadow and The Beautiful Ones, then was lucky enough to be sent Velvet Was the Night. I love the vivid colours and unusual design of her book covers too and have each one sitting on my shelf in hardback. I’m trying to resist buying the signed edition of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau with the bright pink spredges It’s perhaps no surprise that I love the art of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo because this cover is very reminiscent of her work. Mainly I love (and envy) Morena-Garcia’s incredible imagination and the way she changes genre with each book.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is a feminist retelling of H.G. Wells’s original sci-fi novel. Our main character is not Dr. Moreau, instead it is his 14 year old Carlota Moreau, brought up on an island off Mexico by her scientist father. I love the technique of ‘writing back’, especially with the theme of disability in my case, but there have been a lot of books reframing Greek myths such as Elektra and Ariadne. They bring women into the frame and show events from their perspective, which is often very different from the male ‘heroes’. Carlota has a childhood illness which her father is treating with a drug regime of his own invention. Dr Moreau keeps his daughter close by and she is very naïve about the outside world, but also about her father’s work. With the help of his estate overseer, Montgomery Laughton, Dr. Moreau has created ‘the hybrids’, half human and half animal creatures who blindly obey their creator. Seven years later Eduardo Lizaldi arrives, the son of Dr. Moreau’s patron has come to see his work, but sets in motion the events of the novel. I can’t go into much more without ruining the story, but there is a touch of romance woven into the tale as well.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia talks about the setting and themes of her novel in the afterword, including the ethics of scientific work and the effects of colonialism. As part of her backdrop she addresses the treatment of the Mayan population, as well as the Caste War which raged for years against incomers. There is also a look at the rigidly controlled lives of the 19th Century women. All in all a truly ambitious undertaking, but then I wouldn’t expect any less from this gifted writer.
Meet The Author
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of the novels The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Velvet Was the Night, Mexican Gothic, and many other books. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters).