Oh my goodness, this is an absolute treasure of a book. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss tells the story of monstrous women: characters from classic literature who were barely considered noteworthy, infused with lives and voices all their own. While the respectable Mary Jekyll and the untameable Diana Hyde begrudgingly explore what it means to have a sister so unlike yourself, they are joined by Catherine, the unlucky creation of Doctor Moreau; Justine, the would-be bride of Frankenstein’s monster; and Beatrice, the tragic daughter of the botanist Rappaccini. The women adventure throughout Victorian London with varying degrees of enthusiasm, trying to unravel the mystery of a secret society of alchemists that seems to hold the answers to each of their respective origins.
The book is narrated with all five distinct voices telling the same story, often interrupting themselves and each other in the margins to let us know exactly how vexing the process is. Goss manages to weave this together with a simple elegance that masks how ambitious and nuanced the writing style truly is. They bicker as fiercely as they support each other, in a way that feels purely human and heartwarming.
These “monstrous” women, all by-products of men with too much power and too little humanity, are brought together by the need for answers about their origins, and stay together with the bond of chosen family. With them, we walk through familiar male-dominated worlds of classic sci fi and horror, reanimated by the vibrancy, agency, and aspirations of these five beautifully well-rounded, engrossing characters who have finally been given the space to flourish.
And, until February 11th, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is on sale! You can get this book in a BOGO with Himself–another charming, quirky mystery that draws inspiration from classic folklore. Jump on the deal here, under “Inspired Fiction”!