I am delighted to share my review today of Our Hideous Progeny by C.E. McGill. This is a wonderful book that is set in the 1850s, a tale of mystery with a fantasy gothic theme to it. I would like to wish the author a Happy Publication Day today 🙂
My huge thanks to Doubleday UK for granting my request to read this title via NetGalley.
I have to mention something about this cover, it is dark but it fits in so well with so many elements of the story.
Mary is the great-niece of Victor Frankenstein. She knows her great uncle disappeared in mysterious circumstances in the Arctic but she doesn’t know why or how…
The 1850s is a time of discovery and London is ablaze with the latest scientific theories and debates, especially when a spectacular new exhibition of dinosaur sculptures opens at the Crystal Palace. Mary, with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, is keen to make her name in this world of science, alongside her geologist husband Henry, but without wealth and connections, their options are limited.
But when Mary discovers some old family papers that allude to the shocking truth behind her great-uncle’s past, she thinks she may have found the key to securing their future… Their quest takes them to the wilds of Scotland, to Henry’s intriguing but reclusive sister Maisie, and to a deadly chase with a rival who is out to steal their secret…
I have read Frankenstein several times over the years, which is a book have enjoyed. When I saw this title on NetGalley it was the title that caught my eye, and then I read the synopsis. Rather than retelling the story, the author has decided to go on a slightly different path.
Mary had no idea who her grandfather was until she finally discovered a briefcase with some papers in it. It turns out that she is the niece of a certain Viktor Frankenstein, of course, we know the name from the Mary Shelly story, but in this story, he is someone who notes may just help Mary and her husband, James, make their mark in history.
Wanting to be recognised and acknowledged in scientific fields, Mary and Henry Sutherland are on the edge. They are not deemed important enough or, if I am being honest, rich enough to warrant being taken seriously. They have caused a few ructions and this has not helped their cause. They decide to travel to Scotland where they can continue their experiments based on her great uncle’s notes, they need solitude and secrecy and this isolated house is one that can offer that. It is Henry’s childhood home where his sister still lives.
This is a gothic horror novel as such, although not so much horror, then I didn’t think Frankenstein was either. But, it does exude that gothic vibe and also being set in the 1850s fit in well with the society at the time, with The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace Gardens, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species and advances in electricity and research and discovery were happening at a fast rate. It is a great era to set a novel that mixes science, history and experimentation.
The characters of Mary and Henry are well done and the author does show the disparities between the different sexes in terms of academia. Women are and do attend scientific discussions, but they are merely seen as socials where they can gather with their male counterparts. Don’t forget this is a time when women are seen to support their husbands by attending functions with them, but do not have the brainpower or the stamina to understand such topics completely. We do now, of course, know differently, but the author does a great job of showing how difficult it is to be seen.
Having a husband and wife team does help to alleviate this, but the underlying problem is always there. With this new experiment they attempt to undertake, they each have their own tasks, and their own strengths and only by working together do they stand a chance of succeeding. The inclusion of a sister adds to the appeal and for me she was a great character to add. She is prone to ailments, but she also has a very good part to play in her own right.
This is a really enjoyable read, it does show perspectives of the society of the time and makes it a very good historical fiction story, it does have mystery and a wonderful gothic feel to it. I would not say it is very fast-paced, but it suits the era. I really enjoyed this one, it is full of descriptions if you are a fan of novels that do have a more classical fiction feel to them then this is one I would definitely recommend.
Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx