In The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss centered around the life of Cat and her strange relationship with her father’s assistant, an android named Finn. Though Cat’s mother and father are both cyberneticists, Cat’s mother has largely given up her career to raise their daughter. Doctor Calvin, Cat’s father, spends endless hours in the house laboratory working with the mysterious android, Finn. When Cat reaches school age, her parents decide that she should be taught from home; her father assigns Finn to be her tutor, and soon their friendship blossoms under her mother’s disapproving eyes.
We follow her through the turbulent waters of teen angst and high school, through her experiences in the wider world. Though she has trouble studying math and technology, art and literature come easily to her; something her mother never understood. And throughout her life, her mother’s disapproval haunts her: her mother’s wish for a ‘normal life’ for her daughter, even as she falls in love with the android, Finn.
Does Finn return her affections? Is his kindness and friendship the result of true feelings or merely the result of clever programming? Cat herself struggles to find these answers as she falls deeper and deeper in love with the one person she can never marry. Will she ever be normal, or will she choose happiness with her forbidden love?
One of the things I found most endearing about this book is how the author was able to make the reader feel and understand what Cat was feeling. From the time she was a small child and thought Finn a ghost, to the time she realizes his android nature and beyond, even her mistakes are understandable when seen through her eyes. Especially when seen through her eyes.
The themes of transparency, fragility, and beauty over substance repeat throughout the novel. She works as a ‘vice girl’ selling cigarettes in a glass storefront, dressed to the hilt and on display for the world to see; later she lives in a glass house, lovely and utterly devoid of privacy. Yet, when her troubles weigh her down, she retreats into more tactile pleasures: sketching on her drawing pad, weaving on an ancient loom.
Until the last part of the novel, Cat never knows whether or not Finn truly cares for her. She makes mistakes. This keeps the tension high and the pages turning faster and faster. Fantastic character building and a truly classic love story make The Mad Scientist’s Daughter a literary classic for lovers of both genre fiction and classic romance.