During the English Age of Reason, a woman cloistered since birth learns that knowledge is no substitute for experience.
Raised by her father in near isolation in the English countryside, Emilie Selden is trained as a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. In the spring of 1725, father and daughter embark upon their most daring alchemical experiment to date—attempting to breathe life into dead matter. But when Emilie—against her father’s wishes—experiences the passion of first love, she is banished to London, where she soon discovers she knows nothing about human nature—or her own family’s complicated past. So begins her shocking journey to enlightenment.
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Emilie's idyllic -- though mysteriously motherless -- existence at Selden's Manor seems as fresh and green as the place itself, her exposure to the debased worlds of London a submersion in filth and confusion. She could easily be no more than the construct her father tries to make her, but McMahon is a better alchemist than that; Emilie may be a classic fairy-tale heroine on the surface, but this Sleeping Beauty has depth and an increasingly self-aware intelligence.