The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rate: 4/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

This is my third novel by Moreno-Garcia and I’m finding that each of her stories are wholly unique, spanning a wide range of genres and time periods. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is Moreno-Garcia’s take on the events following H.G. Well’s 1896 science fiction classic. Isolated in the Yucatan Peninsula in the 1800s, the story is told mainly from the perspective of Doctor Moreau’s beautiful daughter, Carlota who has been sheltered from his controversial past. The infamous doctor has continued his controversial experiments after being banished from Europe and high society. Having found a new patron, Fernando Lizalde, the Doctor has made meticulous, but slow advances toward the perfect hybrids, though his end goals differ from the slave labor Lizalde desires. With Lizalde’s patience running thin and the rumors of dangerous rebel fighters hiding nearby, the quiet life of the Doctor and Carlota is teetering on the cusp of significant change. 

I’m a bit chagrined to admit that I’ve never read The Island of Doctor Moreau. I’m curious as to the various Easter Eggs or context that I am missing out on by not having read the story that inspired Moreno-Garcia. That said, I still enjoyed the story without having read Well’s classic. 

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau mainly follows Carlota as she learns more of her father’s secrets and begins to question the morality of his experimentations and the suffering of the hybrids. Sheltered by her father on their remote farm, Carlota is equal parts naive and impulsive, almost to exasperation as she constantly puts herself in compromising situations or reacts wildly. As is typical of her age in literature, she falls in love quickly and hard at the first outsider to show her attention, with the stereotypical cascade of events to follow. Her kindness and hope are infectious and glow throughout her chapters. The other main character, Montgomery Laughton, is her polar opposite as he is jaded, pessimistic, and has a past that will make any heart weep. He drowns his sorrows in drink with binge sessions of epic proportions. Montgomery runs the farm for Doctor Moneau who uses his affliction to keep the high functioning alcoholic loyal and his secrets safe.

The supporting cast is mostly made up of Moreau’s hybrids who are not as developed as I’d hoped. Visually they are well described, with each creation having a whole host of ailments and unique physical traits. Beyond Lupe and Cachito we know very little about the rest of the hybrids and their motivations other than a few random facts. 

As is typical of Moreno-Garcia, the story itself is easily my favorite part of this novel, and made some of my complaints above easy to overlook as it is effortless for the reader to become caught up in the world Moreno Garcia has created. That said, the foreshadowing is heavy handed, making any surprises transparent, though they are delightfully revealed as the plot progresses. The ending is also rather abrupt and open-ended as so much is left unanswered or unresolved. Regardless, the events leading up to the end are still thought-provoking, making one wonder what the story looks like five, ten, twenty years in the future. Overall, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau revisits a familiar classic in this hauntingly beautiful story that weaves together love, secrets, morality, and science on a path toward deadly conflict.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound)

  • It took me a little bit to realize that Lupe and Cachito are hybrids. I liked that Moreno-Garcia framed their introduction that way as it makes the reader view them as ‘human’ first before Moreau’s creations.
  • What would have happened had Eduardo married Carlota? Would she have actually been able to leave?
  • I found Moreau’s modification of faith to aid in brainwashing of the hybrids to be an interesting yet completely plausible addition. 
  • What would have the hybrid that Lupe, Cachito, and Carlota accidently set free have developed into? 
  • With the pressure on and his morals already questionable, why didn’t Doctor Moreau try to replicate Carlota again? Will she also die young?
  • There’s a backdrop of unrest that is a theme throughout and helps frame and heighten the tension as the story reaches its climax. After reading more, Moreno-Garcia wove in an actual conflict into this story that happens in real life. I feel as though I’ve learned more about Mexico’s past from her books that I did in school. 
  • Will Carlota ever find her picture perfect love?

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