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Article  •  4 April 2023


Staff picks: 'Our Hideous Progeny'

Melissa Jacks, a metadata optimisation executive at Penguin Random House AU, shares the supernatural story she’s loving lately.

I just finished reading Our Hideous Progeny by C.E. McGill which comes out in May and if you love historical fiction with a touch of sci-fi as I do then you will love this book.

Melissa's pick: 

'Our Hideous Progeny' book cover.

Our Hideous Progeny by C.E. McGill - Out 2 May 2023

It follows the story of Mary Sutherland, who is the great-niece of Viktor Frankenstein (from the original book by Mary Shelly) and is set in the 1850s during the dawn of palaeontology. Born out of wedlock and orphaned at birth, Mary is raised by her very cruel grandmother but can find comfort in her obsession with science and fossils.

She goes on to marry a palaeontologist, Henry, but struggles with the inequalities between men and women of her time and watching her husband pursue a career while she’s relegated to the sidelines. The turning point comes when Mary finds hidden papers in her great uncle's old briefcase claiming he created a life form from nothing, and in the pursuit of fame and fortune, she and Henry decide to attempt the same. If you know the original story you will know this is likely not to turn out well.

The story is engaging, the writing is fresh and as someone who loves this genre I found it so easy to keep turning the pages, but the real draw of the book for me was the author's exploration of how we deal with internal and external conflicts we are faced with, in Mary’s case between motherhood and professional ambition, nature versus nurture, life and death and also the expectations of others versus our own desires.

Despite its historical setting, it deals with contemporary issues and the philosophical questions it poses stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. I absolutely loved it and can’t recommend it enough.

My go-to coffee order

I like my coffee like I like my gothic novels – dark, bold, and with a twist. That's why my go-to coffee order is an oat latte – perfect for getting the blood flowing.

What I’m cooking

I like to channel my inner mad scientist in the kitchen and experiment with a touch of dark magic to create comfort food that satisfies my cravings. While I try to keep things healthy most of the time, a decadent chocolate cake, cheesy plate of mac and cheese or juicy chicken burger never fails to transport me to another world. It's like a deliciously wicked adventure for my taste buds!

Photo of collapsing chocolate cake with berries on top.

(Sidenote: this Collapsing Chocolate Cake recipe from Table for Two is a must-try!)

What I’m listening to

I like to keep things lively when it comes to music, seeking out tunes that transport me to other worlds and awaken my inner creativity. Whether it's haunting melodies or pulse-pounding beats, I'm drawn to anything that fuels my imagination and gets me moving. As someone who loves a diva who marches to her own tune, Miley Cyrus's new album is hitting all the right notes for me - her timeless vocals and darkly hypnotic sounds are like the perfect fuel for my own creative endeavours. It's a musical journey that keeps me energised and inspired throughout the day!

Favourite quote

The quote 'Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly' resonates with me as a reminder to take risks and try new things, even when feeling unprepared or that we aren’t good enough. This philosophy is particularly relevant in the world of science fiction and fantasy, where pushing boundaries and exploring new worlds is the norm. Without the willingness to take risks and try things that might not work out perfectly, we wouldn't have the imaginative stories and worlds we have today. This philosophy is at the core of Our Hideous Progeny, which is all about ambition and the pursuit of knowledge. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the most valuable discoveries and experiences come from embracing uncertainty and stepping into the unknown.


Convinced? Read a preview of Our Hideous Progeny here

Feature Title

Our Hideous Progeny
For fans of gothic fiction, a widely praised debut novel that is both a homage to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and a thrilling feminist historical adventure.
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