Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Angel Maker

The Angel Maker
Author: Stefan Brijs
Penguin Books, 2008
352 pages

I love discovering new-to-me authors from across the pond, so I was delighted when my friend Sophie (from Belgium) sent this book by Belgian author Stefan Brijs. :) 

The Angel Maker is a story told in three parts, starting with the return of Dr. Victor Hoppe to his childhood village in Belgium near the place where three borders (Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands) meet. The doctor has three toddler boys who look exactly alike their father, down to the same physical defect. Unlike other boys in the village, they're kept indoors and not allowed to socialize with other children. Curious villagers gossip: What's wrong with the boys? Who's their mother and where is she? Where has Dr. Hoppe been all these years? Yet they look upon the doctor with a combination of sadness and awe, knowing that he has such a tragic past.

Section two fills in blanks on Victor's past. The only child of the odd village physician, he was born with the same genetic defect as his father. At an early age he was mistaken for mentally challenged and sent to live in a religious-sponsored psychiatric institution. In reality, young Victor is a genius who eventually becomes a doctor specializing in genetics. Like the classic Dr. Frankenstein (interesting that the two doctors share the same first name), Victor becomes obsessed with creating life. Victor is super-creepy and oddly captivating as a character. I was repulsed by him, yet I felt sorry for him.

The last section takes us in a couple of new directions as we learn the answers to all the questions that have been building up since Dr. Hoppe came to town. Things all come to a head in the uber-riveting ending, which deserves at least a 9 on the nail-biting scale. It's going to be a while before I forget The Angel Maker. I can't wait to pass it along to my nephew, who has an interest in genetics. I wonder if he'll be as creeped out as I was!