“I have always been a beastly little thing at heart, it seems.”
C.E. McGill ~ Our Hideous Progeny
It’s 1853 London. Ex-medical student Victor Frankenstein has been missing for years now. Frankenstein’s great niece Mary Sutherland and her husband, Henry, are trying to follow in his scientific footsteps and become renowned palaeontologists. They have the brains and the ambition; the only thing they lack is the reputation. Mary is a woman with a sharp mind but a fierce tongue and Henry is an unemployed gambling addict: none of this earning appeal with their peers.
But after finding clues to her great uncle’s disappearance, Mary’s luck may just change. She constructs a plan that will force the scientific community to take her and her husband seriously; no one will be able to ignore them after they learn to create life. Once they have successfully constructed their Creature, Henry’s ambition soars, but Mary finds herself asking deeper, more important questions than she’s ever confronted before. As Henry’s desire for fame grows, Mary must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the Creature she has grown to love.
Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Our Hideous Progeny looks at ambition, love and betrayal, amongst a backdrop of science, sexism and palaeontology.
Although this is a story of creating life itself, McGill weaves in all manner of topics around the poor plesiosaurus, providing us with a history of our characters, the place of women in society and an analysis of the different types of love.
McGill is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and although this book is inspired by Frankenstein, it is a fantastic story in its own right. We sympathise with Mary, her pitiful childhood and forgotten friendships, but also with the creature and Mary’s sister-in-law Maisie. There is just the right amount of drama, without it feeling unrealistic and the story is credible and even poignant.
There are also a few Easter eggs and I loved the subtle references to Mary Anning, mythology and monsters. The end offers us a discreet nod to a popular myth and I particularly enjoyed this link to the present day. It also looks at the price of fame, morality and justice, especially when it comes to science.
A wonderful debut and I look forward to McGill’s next book.
Thank you to Doubleday for my proof copy. Opinions my own.