Dr. Frankenstein's DaughtersFeatured
Giselle and Ingrid are the twin daughters of Doctor Victor Frankenstein, but they are very different people, and when they inherit his castle in the Orkney Islands, Giselle dreams of holding parties and inviting society -- but Ingrid is fascinated by her father's forbidden experiments.
No matter my opinions on the source material, I cannot resist retellings. I read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in high school, and I loathed pretty much every bit of it. Perhaps I might be able to appreciate its wordiness and lack of action more now, but, at the time, it was torture. Suzanne Weyn's novel picks up some time after Frankenstein concludes, following his daughters, in a very different kind of story.
Where Frankenstein consists of a lot of endless descriptions and foliage, Weyn substitutes the castle and mysterious murders to create the gothic feeling of the original. Weyn also does a good job of simulating the language of the time. It's a bit stilted occasionally, but largely well done. The narration switches between Giselle's and Ingrid's journal entries, and the two narratives are kept distinct by the entirely different interests held by the two girls.
The major theme in Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters, as with Frankenstein, is that of madness. With the two Frankenstein girls, Weyn highlights two different kinds of madness, with the most obvious being the madness of obsession in scientific discovery. The desire for knowledge, to know whether something can be done without considering whether it should be done, runs through Ingrid, the smart twin, just as it ran through Victor.
Though much of Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters moved at a pretty sedate pace, again akin to the original, the ending is quite shocking. The first half focused largely on romance, and it seemed less a retelling and more a historical romance with a needless reference to Shelley's creations. In the second half, Weyn really sells it, and the shift is startling in a good way. I did not expect her to end things quite as she did, and it's nice to be surprised by a book.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Unfortunately, the novel has a major flaw in my opinion. Though I do not think it is Weyn's intention to do so, I do not like the treatment of female characters in the novel. Besides Giselle and Ingrid, there is only one other female character who gets a line. The girls are on this isolated island, but meet multiple attractive men. Yet, somehow, they do not meet any women. I do not like the message this sends that aside from our heroines, females really are not important.
The Final Verdict:
Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters is a quick read that becomes progressively darker as the pages fly by. This will be a good read for those who appreciate gothic narratives, but don't want to wade through 400 pages of dense prose.
Title: Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters
Author: Suzanne Weyn
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Cover Impressions: The cover has a little bit of an old school feel. It reminds me of ghost stories that I would have read in elementary school. The colors are pretty and the setting is ominous.
The Gist: Giselle and Ingrid have discovered that they are the daughters of the brilliant and wealthy Dr. Frankenstein. As his only heirs, they inherit his castle in the Orkney Islands and set about making it their own. While Giselle renovates and plans an elaborate party, Ingrid becomes lost in her father's journals and begins to take her own steps down his dark and dangerous path.
I love new takes on old classics and was excited to read this interesting spin off of the classic Frankenstein tale. The story is told through the diary entries of both girls. While this style works well in the beginning, it becomes a little cumbersome as the action starts to pick up. There are also a few repetitive issues such as the constant speaking to the diary and informing the reader of when each girl had time to write in the diary.
The girls themselves are a little bland and stereotypical. Giselle is the pretty one, obsessed with dresses and parties while Ingrid is the smart one, fascinated by science and experimentation. Giselle is more the more interesting of the two as her exploits seem to constantly put her in danger. Ingrid, for her part, develops an infatuation with a man whom she must save from a debilitating disease, and we get to see a shadow of the obsession that marked her father's demise.
The plot was a bit predictable and could have been shaken up with a surprise ending. There was some eye-rolling at the number of men who seemed to want to harm Giselle (she cannot possibly been so beautiful that every man she encountered felt the overwhelming urge to consumer her) and Ingrid's escapades sneaking into university lectures dressed comically as a man.
Overall, Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters did not wow me, but I would still recommend it for those who love the classics and, perhaps, to inspire those young readers to pick up the original.
Age: 12 and up
Violence: Murder by strangulation, attempted rape, scientific experimentation, body snatching
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None