‘The Alchemist’s Daughter’ Is No Frankenstein’s Monster : NPR

Mary Jekyll has never been more alone. Her father, Dr. Henry Jekyll, died 14 years ago, and her mother Ernestine has just passed away after going mad. Living in London in the 1890s, she’s subject to the era’s discrimination against women, which she confronts while trying to get her family’s affairs in order. She soon realizes she’s destitute — but her mother has left her clues to a bank account that lead to a girl named Diana Hyde.

Mary remembers Diana’s father from her childhood; Edward Hyde, crude and misshapen, was a friend of Dr. Jekyll’s. As a mystery coalesces around them — one that transcends their curious overlapping pasts — three other women enter their orbit, each of them the daughter, literal or figurative, of a scientist belonging to a secret society: Catherine Moreau, Beatrice Rappaccini, and Justine Frankenstein.

The premise Theodora Goss lays out in her novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter isn’t shockingly original. But before you assume it’s some sort of, well, Frankenstein’s creature comprising pieces of Monster High and Penny Dreadful, be assured that Goss has executed something much deeper. True, she’s unabashedly drawing from the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, H. G. Wells, Nathaniel Hawthrone, and Mary Shelley. Rather than executing a shallow mash-up, though, she’s assembled a deceptively intricate mosaic of friendship, family, history, science, and the way literature — not to mention truth — can be manipulated.

Mary and crew’s investigation into secrets of the Société des Alchimistes, the centuries-old cabal their fathers belonged to, leads to further entanglements. The Jack the…

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