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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters

Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters

Author: Suzanne Weyn
Pages: 247
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: YA Books Central for Review

Description from Goodreads:
A new generation is creating a monster....

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.


First Sentence: "What unbearable guilt!"

Review:
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.

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. Though perhaps I should be grateful that the two girls are the only ones to receive any sort of character development; all those multitudes of men are flat as pancakes.

The only other woman to have a voice is Mary Shelley. Weyn has done what so many retellers like to do: brought the author into her story. This is, actually, one of my least favorite literary devices. An author chooses to retell a story, most likely because of a great respect and admiration of the original work and its creator. Generally, the author is brought in as a character to be inspired by the scenes he/she witnesses, and to then go on and write their famous work. Am I the only one who finds this incredibly insulting to the original author, diminishing the power of their imagination to that of a chronicler?

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.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "I read and read without ever being bored as long as there is daylight."

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12 Comments:

Blogger Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews said...

Ooh, I've been wanting to read this but the only feedback I've heard about it was another blogger telling me not to even bother. With your review though, I'm excited about it again. If I can look past the treatment of women characters (or lack of women characters) I hope to enjoy it.

I don't think I've ever read a retelling in which the original's author makes an appearance in quite this way. I've seen Shakespeare retellings with him featured as a character (usually a love interest) but nothing close to what you're describing. Then, I don't read many retellings.

Also, I was really expected a higher rating judging by your review.

March 17, 2013 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Eileen said...

Ooh this is the first time I've heard of this, but I'm sorry you didn't love it, although I'm glad you DID like it! :)

When I saw the word "Giselle" I was like "GISELLE? Oh look you retweeted one of her tweets! Wait, wrong Giselle!" I don't know. It was a totally weird moment.

Anyway, yuck with the treatment of the women! Even if it is intentional, it does seem to be kind of annoying. And don't worry, I totally get what you're saying by bringing the author into the story, because it kind of makes them seem less creative.

Great review! I'm glad you liked this somewhat better than the original Frankenstein though!

March 17, 2013 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I definitely don't think it was horrible, but I don't think it was all that great either, you know? I was sort of torn, so that's why it was a 2.5. I had it as a 3 initially, but decided I wasn't quite engaged enough for that.

Oh, I've seen that quite a bit, but I read a lot of retellings. There was one REALLY awful Jane Austen one where she was surrounded by people exactly like every character in every novel and I was PISSED.

March 18, 2013 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, def didn't love it.

I was laughing the whole time imagining Giselle the blogger running around.

That always bothers me, and I think a lot of times it's really unintended. It just doesn't occur to authors how much female characters are left out.

The original Frankenstein was SO boring. Ugh.

March 18, 2013 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Renae M. said...

I was rather unimpressed by Distant Waves, a novel by Weyn about the Titanic and time travel, and it seems like she will not be the author for me.

I REALLY hate the original author insertion trope as well. It's always felt tacky and silly to me.

March 18, 2013 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

AUTHOR INSERTION. That's the term I couldn't remember. *thumps forehead* Anyway, yeah, it just seems so insulting. If you want to make the author your character, research and write legit historical fiction.

I might try Weyn's dystopian series someday, but, while I didn't hate this, I also didn't like it enough that she'll ever be high on my list to read more of, which is sad since all her topics interest me.

March 18, 2013 at 2:14 PM  
OpenID thebookwurrm said...

I was sent an unsolicited copy of this and I don't know, it doesn't call to me. Your review helped me decide. I think I may try Oppel's version of the story though. I heard him talk about it and he sold me on it. Lovely review!

March 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I hate to scare people away from something, but if it's not calling to you, I don't think it was engaging enough to change your mind. It's alright, but nothing special I didn't think.

March 18, 2013 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I am kind of a sucker for retellings so I was super excited for this one. This is actually the first review I have read for it so I am glad that I skipped on requesting it. Sorry it didn't do much for you.

March 19, 2013 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, me too. I mean, it wasn't a terrible read, but I wasn't impressed either. *shrug*

March 19, 2013 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger KM said...

I liked the original book ok but my favorite part of it was the inspiration for the book itself, with them all telling ghost stories and then she had the dream - I always thought that was just so cool. So I think it would bug me a little to change that in this book.

March 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh yeah, the story behind Frankenstein is totally awesome, and that's one more reason that the author insertion really does not work.

March 20, 2013 at 10:48 AM  

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