Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Madman's Daughter

The Madman's Daughter

Megan Shepherd
For ages 14
HarperCollins, 2013   ISBN: 978-0062128027

When she was ten years old, Juliet Moreau’s father disappeared, leaving Juliet and her mother alone to face the scandal that he had created. Though there were only rumors that Dr. Moreau had done things that were monstrous and unethical, the rumors were powerful enough that Juliet and her mother were shunned. Without any financial support from anyone, they lost their home and their place in society.

   Now Juliet is alone in the world. Her mother died some time ago and one of her father’s former friends managed to procure a job for Juliet at the university where her father used to work as London’s “most famous surgeon.” Juliet, who was brought up to be a lady and who also knows a great deal about physiology, is a cleaning woman. She has no prospects and very little hope that her life will improve.

   Then, quite by chance, Juliet sees a vivisection diagram and she knows that the diagram was created by her father. When she questions the medical student who has the diagram he tells her that he got the document from a doctor who is staying at the Blue Boat Inn. Juliet goes to the inn where the diagram was acquired and finds out that the “doctor” who lives there is none other than her father’s servant, Montgomery. Montgomery explains that he now lives on a remote island off the coast of Australia with Dr. Moreau. They work there together in peace, untouched by the outside world. Montgomery leaves the island every eighteen months or so to get supplies.

   Juliet forces Montgomery to take her with him when he returns to the island. She tells him how she is “one step away from the streets” and impoverished. The least he can do is to take her to the father who abandoned her.

   If Juliet thought that she would be able to have a normal life with her father on his island she is sorely mistaken. To her horror she discovers that her father has done and is still doing all the things he was accused of doing all those years ago. He does vivisection on live animals without using anesthesia. This is bad enough, but then she finds out that he cobbles together parts of animals to create human-like beings. The island is populated with his living experiments, poor creatures who are neither human nor animal. Juliet is torn between her horror and her admiration for what her father has managed to achieve. The science intrigues her, but the cruelty makes her hate her father more than ever. When it becomes clear that one of her father’s “monsters” has started killing the inhabitants of the island Juliet starts wondering if she will ever be able to leave the island.

   In this thrilling, gritty, and often rather terrifying story Megan Shepherd takes her readers to a place where raw emotions are exposed, where secrets come to light, and where first love emerges under less than ideal circumstances. The story is perfectly paced, and it is interesting to see what lies beneath the façade that the doctor has created.