Khanh the Killjoy

The Madman's Daughter

The Madman's Daughter - Mostly creepy, very gory...and sometimes sexy and hot, which makes me feel very uncomfortable with myself. It is not the most exciting read; if you want fast-paced action, look elsewhere. This book is atmospheric and psychological above all else. Lest I inadvertently made it sound boring, it is not. There is plenty of adventure...the heroine finds herself travelling halfway around the world to a wild, mostly uncharted island, after all, but I feel that the ambience and overall tension in the book exceeds the action.Juliet is a strong heroine. Just 16, she has been living on her own, working as a cleaner in the King's College of Medical Research after her father's flight and her mother's subsequent death. It was not always like this; she was raised to a life of gentility. Her father, before his disgrace (the terms of which are slowly revealed throughout the first half of the book), was a highly respected surgeon in society, and her mother a society lady.When he is embroiled in a massive scandal, her father fled and is presumed dead, leaving Juliet's mother and herself to creditors. They barely make ends meet, living in a shameful manner before her mother dies, leaving Juliet on her own without any prospects besides the street and life in servitude. Juliet has always held onto the hope that her father is alive, and her belief is confirmed when she runs into her father's assistant, Montgomery. When she is kicked from her position due to self-defense against a rape attempt (remember: 19th century England servants don't have a whole lot of options other than to grin and bear it), she follows him to her father's island and is joined by a mysterious shipwreck survivor named Edward, and discovers the horrifying truth behind the rumors.Despite the setting, Juliet is no simpering, swooning Victorian miss. She may have been raised as a gentlewoman, but her father's profession and her subsequent fall from society means she has the backbone, the willpower, and a stomach steeled for survival. She is fiercely intelligent and knowledgeable of science, particularly the biological sciences and human anatomy. She has read Darwin and other burgeoning scientific works of the day and is a young woman who is well ahead of her time. "Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn’t bother me. I was my father’s daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things."Regardless of her circumstances and how far she has fallen, Juliet never feels sorry for herself: she is a survivor. I absolutely loved her as a complex, tenacious, but not invulnerable character. This is what all YA authors should aspire to when writing a strong yet not intolerably stubborn female protagonist who never subjects herself to martyrdom; she knows she is a victim of circumstances, but does not blame herself unnecessarily for anything for which she is not directly responsible. She is so utterly sympathetic.As familiar as she is with vivisections and procedures involving cadavers, Juliet is strongly against torture and does not hesitate to end suffering when she sees it. A note to the squeamish and to animal will be very uncomfortable with some scenes in this book. When Juliet's acquaintances are vivisecting a living rabbit, despite her lowly status and being a woman who, god forbid, has no place in medical research, she does not hesitate to end its suffering: "I took a deep breath, focusing on the rabbit’s neck. In a movement I knew had to be fast and hard, I brought down the ax." I assure you, after reading this book, henceforth, you will cringe upon hearing the word "vivisection."Despite her strength, Juliet has a low self-esteem. She sees herself as abnormal, given her knowledge and intellect; she knows that intelligence is considered a discredit when a man chooses a woman for marriage. She believes herself unlovable because of her fallen background, because of her bloodline and her nature."I was cold, strange, and monstrous to those boys, just like my father. No one could love a monster."Juliet knows the rumors that abound after her father absconded. Regardless, she loves him and tries to believe the rumors were just that. In her bleak fight for survival every day, all she has to cling onto are her memories, the good ones, of her father "...the feel of his tweed jacket, the smell of tobacco in his hair when he kissed me good night. I couldn’t bring myself to believe my father was the madman they said he was," although subconsciously, she knows what lurks behind the rumors. "As I matured, more memories surfaced. Deeper ones, of a cold, sterile room and sounds in the night—recollections that never entirely disappeared, no matter how far I pushed them into the recesses of my mind."Juliet isn't gullible, she knows what her father did, and she's scared of him. At the same time, her emotions are so torn in different directions because he is still her father. Dr. Henri Moreau may be a rumored madman to society, but he is also a genius and despite everything, Juliet still loves him. As she struggles to explain to Edward: "I wasn’t defending my father. I was defending the part of me that knew what my father did was evil but was terribly proud that he’d accomplished it. My father's blood flowed in my veins, too. Didn’t he understand that?"I was angry at times towards Juliet for her passive acceptance of what her father did. Even when faced with danger on the island, she can't run away, but whatever disbelief I felt at her actions were greatly explained by the time. She is a helpless woman in 19th century England. There aren't a whole lot of choices; it was either to remain with an insane father and his menagerie or become a prostitute. I was also so furious at her for not being angry with her father, he left her and her mother, what did he think would happen? The fact that Dr. Moreau was so blasé about his daughter's existence and sudden reappearance into his life was as monstrous to me as his insane experiments."You’re young. You haven't experienced how unjust the world can be." He sighed. "You're upset I didn't bring you with me. You've every right. I thought it was no life for a child, running, hiding out on an island a hundred miles from anything."Asshole. I wanted to strangle him at that point. Dragging a child onto a strange island is better than slaving her days away scrubbing and dodging the lecherous advances of her employers? Better than leaving her and his late wife penniless, when his wife had to become someone's mistress to keep a roof over their heads? She was a child. Dr. Moreau is an atrocious man in so many ways. Even so, I can't completely hate him.The villains in this book are so ridiculously well-written, so complex, that the reader as well as Juliet are conflicted to where their loyalties lie, and we are forced to ask ourselves where to draw the line between good and bad, reason and madness? If man is capable of creating something better, should he or shouldn't he? I had my mind made up, or so I thought, but the arguments are presented quite masterfully by Dr. Moreau that I found myself agreeing with him. His powers of persuasions are no joke, and he is a very-well written character. I couldn't find myself completely hating him; I couldn't decide whether he was mad, intentionally cruel, or just the pure definition of a scientist who will do anything for his art."Don’t act so horrified, Juliet. It is merely surgery. You are no doubt familiar with some of the more common practices. Setting broken bones, amputations, stitching ruptured skin back together?...No one questions the hand of a doctor performing such procedures. No one calls it butchery—it is science, and no different from what transpires behind the door of my own laboratory. For it is surgery I perform...I am in pursuit of the ideal living form. Just like all of us, wouldn’t you say? The same reason we choose mates and procreate. We want to create something better than ourselves. Perfection."The island setting is mysterious, beautiful, and fraught with danger and mystery. It is a strange and wondrous place to Juliet, not only because of the environment that is so completely different from anything she has experienced in foggy, rainy, cold England. "A blue sky stretched as far as the ocean, which we glimpsed between breaks in the trees. I’d traded a bitter English winter for the lush tropical sun and beautiful calls of faraway birds." Every setting in this book is vividly described, from the eerie, dank setting of midwinter England and the clammy, filthy settings of the university hospital to the spectacularly verdant setting of the island and its odd inhabitants.Lest I go on and on about the perfection of this book, I did find one fault. I didn't like the romance; I found it rather forced, given the premise of the book, but I suppose it worked in the long run. The love triangle didn't work well for me, because I didn't like either of the characters. Edward and Montgomery were well-written enough, complex enough, but the way they were depicted didn't make either appeal to me romantically.I didn't like Montgomery's role as lackey. He was an utter doormat throughout much of the story, a mindless drone doing Dr. Moreau's bidding. Montgomery, I felt, lacked a backbone. He jumps when Dr. Moreau says so. Even Juliet, who has admired him all her life, observes this. She likes him, but she is not immune to his faults: "Montgomery was slave to my father’s will. Helping him with his terrible work, defending him...Montgomery wasn’t cruel, I knew that to my core. Father might have dragged him here as a child, raised him to do terrible things, but Montgomery wasn’t a monster. He shouldn’t act as Father’s puppet." Over and over again, we see Montgomery do terrible things at Dr. Moreau's bidding, and more than once, I similarly wanted to strangle him for being such a lily-livered sycophant.As for Edward...I just didn't trust him. His appearance was mysterious, and he just didn't feel right as a character. His self-explained past was too vague for me to trust him, and I had so many questions I wanted to ask him as I read that I'm amazed Juliet gave him so much leeway.There are moments of steaminess in the story, although there isn't much of it. It makes sense, given the context and setting of the story, and of Juliet's age. Although she is only 16, she is not sheltered, but in the era in which she lives, women aren't supposed to be sexual by any means. The romance, when it comes, is as shocking to her, and as uncomfortable for her as it is described to us. She is a growing young woman, with no mother to guide her, and in an era which shames sexuality, so it is understandable that the steamy moments, and her dreams are so strange and awkward...although rather steamy. There is a dream scenery involving blood, an operating table, and sawing that shouldn't be sexy, but was...kind of. Ahem. I think I said too much.The ending: wow. I didn't see that coming, but then again, I didn't read the original. I can't possibly see how the sequel could top this, but I will be eagerly anticipating it.