posted at Sunday, March 17th, 2013 at 8:45 PM | Reviews, Young Adult
I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters by Suzanne Weyn
Published by Scholastic on January 1, 2013
Genres: Gothic, Historical, Horror, Mystery, Retelling, Romance
Source: YA Books Central
A new generation is creating a monster....
Giselle and Ingrid are the twin daughters of Doctor Victor Frankenstein, but they are very different people, and when they inherit his castle in the Orkney Islands, Giselle dreams of holding parties and inviting society -- but Ingrid is fascinated by her father's forbidden experiments.
First Sentence: “What unbearable guilt!”
No matter my opinions on the source material, I cannot resist retellings. I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in high school, and I loathed pretty much every bit of it. Perhaps I might be able to appreciate its wordiness and lack of action more now, but, at the time, it was torture. Suzanne Weyn’s novel picks up some time after Frankenstein concludes, following his daughters, in a very different kind of story.
Where Frankenstein consists of a lot of endless descriptions and foliage, Weyn substitutes the castle and mysterious murders to create the gothic feeling of the original. Weyn also does a good job of simulating the language of the time. It’s a bit stilted occasionally, but largely well done. The narration switches between Giselle’s and Ingrid’s journal entries, and the two narratives are kept distinct by the entirely different interests held by the two girls.
The major theme in Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters, as with Frankenstein, is that of madness. With the two Frankenstein girls, Weyn highlights two different kinds of madness, with the most obvious being the madness of obsession in scientific discovery. The desire for knowledge, to know whether something can be done without considering whether it should be done, runs through Ingrid, the smart twin, just as it ran through Victor.
Though much of Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters moved at a pretty sedate pace, again akin to the original, the ending is quite shocking. The first half focused largely on romance, and it seemed less a retelling and more a historical romance with a needless reference to Shelley’s creations. In the second half, Weyn really sells it, and the shift is startling in a good way. I did not expect her to end things quite as she did, and it’s nice to be surprised by a book.
Unfortunately, the novel has a major flaw in my opinion. Though I do not think it is Weyn’s intention to do so, I do not like the treatment of female characters in the novel. Besides Giselle and Ingrid, there is only one other female character who gets a line. The girls are on this isolated island, but meet multiple attractive men. Yet, somehow, they do not meet any women. I do not like the message this sends that aside from our heroines, females really are not important. Though perhaps I should be grateful that the two girls are the only ones to receive any sort of character development; all those multitudes of men are flat as pancakes.
The only other woman to have a voice is Mary Shelley. Weyn has done what so many retellers like to do: brought the author into her story. This is, actually, one of my least favorite literary devices. An author chooses to retell a story, most likely because of a great respect and admiration of the original work and its creator. Generally, the author is brought in as a character to be inspired by the scenes he/she witnesses, and to then go on and write their famous work. Am I the only one who finds this incredibly insulting to the original author, diminishing the power of their imagination to that of a chronicler?
Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters is a quick read that becomes progressively darker as the pages fly by. This will be a good read for those who appreciate gothic narratives, but don’t want to wade through 400 pages of dense prose.
“I read and read without ever being bored as long as there is daylight.”