Honoré and Emily find themselves imprisoned in the 19th century
by a celebrated but unscrupulous inventor. Help comes from
an unexpected source: a perfectly constructed humanoid automaton,
created by - and to give pleasure to - its owner...
impressive debut book by Claire Bott combines such intriguing
elements as the Pinocchio story, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein,
and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Shelley's
mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein is reflected
in the character of the clockwork woman's unhinged creator,
Sir Edward Fanshawe, and an angry mob that assembles towards
the end of the novella. The story of Pinocchio comes into
play when the automaton begins to take on the characteristics
of a proper human being. Dove, as the artificial woman ultimately
chooses to name herself, is partially inspired in her emancipation
by the writing of Mary Wollstonecraft, whose work is quoted
by the author.
Prior to her liberation, Dove lives a life of servitude under
her master, who uses her for his own sexual gratification.
The notion of sexual slavery is a repugnant one, and the horror
of it is driven home all the more effectively by the matter-of-fact
manner in which Dove, from whose perspective the majority
of the tale is told, reports her servitude to the reader.
She herself possesses no sense of touch, because her creator
did not see fit to bestow such a gift upon her, and is therefore
incapable of feeling erotic pleasure. This attitude reflects
the Victorian "lie back and think of England" mentality, which
assumed that women could not or did not need to achieve sexual
However, her years of experience at pleasing her master mean
that Dove can easily earn money once she, Honoré and Emily
have escaped from Sir Edward's house. The fact that prostitution
aids her liberation makes for an interesting bit of moral
ambiguity (who is exploiting whom when a man pays a woman
for sex?), though Bott soon circumvents this paradox by later
making the woman the unwilling prisoner of a brothel.
sexual content of the book, which includes a scene in which
Dove is made to perform intercourse before an audience, including
Emily, would have been extremely controversial had it been
included in the Doctor Who novella range, the predecessor
to this series. However, the author handles her subject in
an extremely skilful and moving way, and the end result is
emotionally intense rather than tawdry.