The Daughter of Doctor Moreau – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Carlota Moreau has grown up on the Yaxaktun estate in the dense jungles of the Yucatán Peninsula, sheltered physically but not intellectually, well read in science and literature and conversant in many languages, the daughter of Doctor Moreau whose experiments saved her from the illness which took her mother and have also given rise to her companions, the hybrids.

Her two closest friends the juvenile hybrids Lupe and Cachito, her appearance tending towards that of a jaguarundi and his that of an ocelot, they and their clan are accepted by Carlota, Ramona, housekeeper and teller of stories, and the mayordomo who sees to the running of the ranch, Montgomery Laughton who arrived at Yaxaktun when Carlota was fourteen.

Their lives relatively calm for six years, that changes in 1877 with the unexpected arrival of Eduardo Lizalde and his cousin Isidro; the son and nephew of Hernando Lizalde, Doctor Moreau’s patron who owns the estate and now wishes for a return on his significant investment. Gustave Moreau having been unable to perfect the hard-working labourers he promised, he can offer only one thing to stay the otherwise inevitable eviction: the hand of his daughter in marriage.

The Island of Doctor Moreau the third novel of the prolific H G Wells, first published in 1896, Silvia Moreno-Garcia has taken little but the broadest premise for The Daughter of Doctor Moreau though she has returned it to the catch-all under which the then-newly conceived genre was once known, the scientific romance: while Eduardo brings entitlement and trouble and her father sees his wealth as security for his research, to Carlota he is genuinely kind.

Having grown up in isolation, her dazzled eyes can only see how handsome he is, certainly a more suitable man than Laughton, “El Inglés Loco,” indebted to Lizalde and his blessing and his curse his dual affinity for machines and spirits; despite Eduardo’s initial rejection of the hybrids, if Carlota could bring him to understand and accept them and be persuaded to give her Yaxaktun as a wedding gift, their future could be safe in the sanctuary she would build.

Growing up in a house as much a chimera as its inhabitants, mismatched inherited furnishings grown tatty with age, Carlota has inherited not the hopes of her father but his failures, debts he has incurred and the wrath of those he has wronged in a family built upon lies. No longer a child nor is she a woman, instead something unique in Moreau’s menagerie, unpredictable and dangerous in a land where the native peoples and hostile occupiers and their mixed offspring squabble endlessly over territory and resources.

Purity of blood no guarantee of acceptance unless it is of the right inheritance, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau sweeps along in the style of Isabel Allende’s fantastical City of the Beasts, the prose readable and the locations and emotions vividly described and evoked as it is told in alternate chapters through the eyes of Carlota and Montgomery, perhaps predictable but always enjoyable, an old idea reworked with a modern twist for a younger generation.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau will be available from Jo Fletcher Books from Tuesday 19th July



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