Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

So I should probably start by saying that I haven’t read the first book, I just randomly picked this one up because I fancied buying a new book (even though I have so many that I haven’t read…) Regardless, I don’t think I necessarily needed to read it, it’s referenced enough in this one to get the idea of what it was about.

This whopping great brick of a novel (700 pages and change) follows the members of the Athena club on an adventure to Europe to rescue Lucinda Van Helsing, daughter of the famous Dr Van Helsing. For the uninitiated, the novel’s heroines are all related somehow to all the great 19th century monster fiction. We have Justine Frankenstein, Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde…you get the picture.

So despite what I’m going to say, I pretty much enjoyed the novel. It was very easy to read and I liked the characters for the most part. It could have definitely had way fewer pages. I reckon cutting out all the food would have saved at least 100 pages (I jest…a little…) I like the idea of lots of women going on adventures, being competent and independent. I also love the idea of them all being monstrous in some ways, which is something they have to grapple with throughout this novel, and I assume the previous one.

However, unfortunately the characters are very one dimensional most of the time. How many times did Catherine have to say she was a puma (an experiment from the Isle of Dr Moreau)? Apparently all the time. Also Mary, who was supposed to be Holmes-esque and super rational spent most of her internal monologue talking about being overwhelmed and tired. I think the one I liked the most was pugnacious Diana, who at least was amusing and not super morose. Basically, what would have made this book a lot better was less talking about sandwiches and far more character development.

I think something that would have annoyed me if I had read the first, as it irked me a little bit in this one, was that clearly characters that were meant to have been killed off in the first book reappeared in this one. I suppose it may have added some complexity to the characters that I have missed out on, but it would have been better to have some new peril rather than dragging up the past again.

And for all its length, not a lot happens in this book. Like there is a lot of filler, just talking and stressing out and eating sandwiches (and then explaining the differences in sandwiches in other countries). They prepare for a trip, they get kidnapped, others then have to go on the trip, they get rescued, they go to a meeting, the end.

Basically, it reaffirms my belief that any novel over 500 pages need a judicious edit. There was a solid 400 page novel in that 700 pages. Luckily I was on holiday and enjoyed chilling out reading something so fluffy. It’s definitely a holiday book, any other time I would have probably been far more angry with it. Like it’s so easy to read, I finished it in about 4 sittings, getting through 200 pages unbelievably quickly.

Anyway, I still like it, for some reason. I just like groups of competent women taking on some baddies. Though, you can’t really beat Strange Practice and the Greta Van Helsing novels for a twist on 19th century monster novels though. So if you had to choose between the two, always choose Greta.

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