I liked this one! I don’t know if I’ll ever love another one of Moreno-Garcia’s books as much as I love Mexican Gothic, but the sci-fi element of this one makes for a really intriguing story. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau certainly lived up to my expectations.
Carlota Moreau is the singular bastard daughter of Doctor Moreau – a man who has thoroughly entrenched himself in the Yucatán to carry out his biological research. They are surrounded by the results of his experiments: “the hybrids” are half-animal, half-humans crafted by the doctors hand, and used as servants with the intent of their perfected versions becoming laborers for Moreau’s patron, the Lizaldes.
When Carlota is fourteen, they receive a new manager of the estate, Montgomery Laughton. The two circle one another even six years later, when the son of the elder Lizalde arrives in a flurry with the intent of marrying Carlota. The events that transpire in the wake of his arrival might just unravel everything they have built at Yaxaktun, their home.
I loved Carlota! I don’t say that often, and I definitely don’t say it much about Moreno-Garcia’s leading ladies. But Carlota had an inner sense of power that only grew in strength throughout the novel. There was a sense of surety and love that she used to will her world and dreams into the future. I never felt truly like the other characters had her best interest at heart, even when they were acknowledged that she was so pure and good, and wanted to be in her orbit. They were too selfish for their own good, but Carlota was always, always selfless. I loved her character.
The book alternates between the perspectives of Carlota and Montgomery, who is essentially the caretaker of Yaxaktun. While I loved Carlota, I only really *liked* Montgomery, and at times, I didn’t even like him. He made himself hard to like, at times, by being utterly stupid. That sounds harsh, but it’s so true! It was reminiscent of Maite in Velvet Was the Night: the lack of self awareness… painful. I just feel like he causes pain by being concerned about the past, or about himself.
The first half of the novel really captivated me, but I do have to say that the second half slowed my interest. I get what we were building towards, but the action in the second half didn’t grab me nearly as much as the drama and the historical intrigue of the first half. I don’t know if it just lost my attention or become too much or what, but it’s certainly not that didn’t make sense in the context of the story. I actually thought the resolution was pretty good – just kind of boring?
The novel is loosely based on HG Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, which I admittedly have not read, or had even heard of prior to this book. Moreno-Garcia gave a sort of recap in the afterword so as to explain her intent with the retelling, and it sounds both authentic and like a great continuation of the story for a new generation. I thought a big part of the story’s importance was that Carlota and Montgomery had both respect and love for the hybrids, where others did not – it felt like adding a touch of humanity to the original story and twisting the characters from the Wells story so you can derive the original intent.
Highly recommend this one, and of course, all her other novels. I might backtrack and read more of her books; I didn’t realize she had published so much! I really love her writing style.
Have a great weekend!