Monday, September 10, 2007

What Fran Did: Vivien Alcock, The Monster Garden. London: Methuen, 1988.

Frances Stein gets teased at school because of both her name and her father's involvement in the bio-tech lab up the road, Then her brother sneaks home some cell samples. She coerces hm into giving her some, and while his die, she grows a monster.

Fran is not, at least at the start, very interested in science, partially because she is always being told she is too young, but also because she has a poor relationship with her father (her mother died when she was very young and he can't communicate). Her interest is awoken however by the "monster's" reactions to her. Considered "soft" by her brothers she is kind to it and it grows.

This book could be read as midly anti-science with feminine qualities of caring more important than science, but actually I anger is a consequence of rejection, Alcock shows what kindness can do to them monster.

At the end Fran's dad is exonerated -- a colleague he doesn't much like may have created the cell samples-- and Fran is growing into her heritage and getting interested in science. She is also getting on better with her Dad but there are, thank goodness, no miraculous cures for bad relationships (one of the friendships sours and stays sour also).

One small point: Fran has three brothers. This is a rare "modern" book with siblings.


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