BOOK REVIEW: The Art and Making of Penny Dreadful

I sometimes feel a little uneasy reading ‘Making of’ books. They can reveal so many things about the shows and films we love, there is always the real risk of finding out information that takes away some of the illusion and mystique. I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Penny Dreadful and when the chance to review this book came up, I jumped at it, my need for another dose of that world winning out over my fear of seeing too much.

Some of horror literature’s most iconic characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and figures from Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. Penny Dreadful is a psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama. The Art and Making of Penny Dreadful goes behind the scenes to unearth its secrets and dissect every aspect of the show’s production, with exclusive interview material with the creator, cast, and crew, and previously unseen images.

The first thing that’s immediately noticeable is how nice the book is to hold. The partially embossed front cover and weight in my hands impressing the quality of the thing on my mind. Opening the covers and flicking through only confirmed this impression. The book is full of gorgeous photography and artwork, the text beneath and around revealing tidbits of information on the processes and historical setting behind the creation of Penny Dreadful.

When I did begin my proper cover-to-cover read, I was amazed at how quickly I got through the book. This isn’t a criticism of length, it took a good few hours, it is more an indication of how easy to read Sharon Gosling’s writing style is, and how interesting the various chapters and sections were to me. I also learned a heck of a lot. I like to think I’m quite an observant, well-considered person but the amount of stuff I missed when watching the show is frankly embarrassing. Sure, not all of it would be knowable from simply watching Penny Dreadful but some of the character contrasts and conflicts really should have been. I went and sat in the naughty corner for a while and soon felt a bit better.

There are in-depth looks at the characters and their psychologies and drives, the actors playing them also giving their opinions and anecdotes. Being able to read what Timothy Dalton thought of Sir Malcolm Murray’s motivations, or Reeve Carney’s insights into Dorian Gray’s ennui was an eye-opening education. Along with this, there is making of information, how particular scenes were filmed, sets dressed and locations found (or built). The attention to detail shown by the production crew and the cast is truly amazing. The book does a fantastic job of relating the attitudes shown in the show with the historical context of the time. Highlights include a revealing piece about what the East End was really like in those times and why Egyptology was so interesting to people of that era.

The physical processes of filming are also explained. Vanessa Ive’s (Eva Green) famous table-cracking display at the séance being one of the only scenes that wasn’t a fight scene to be granted the boon of rehearsal time. It was also the first full scene written by series creator John Logan as he felt it would be the hardest to write, and so decided to start with it, thinking anything that came after would form more easily.

As far as my fears of learning too much, I think that the book was written so well, that I really didn’t mind seeing some of the mystery behind the curtain. As I closed the cover after completing my reading, I felt more appreciation for the work that went into making Penny Dreadful the show it is. I also had a growing urge to re-watch season one again, which is something that I didn’t expect after having the details of its creation so recently pondered upon.

If you love Penny Dreadful, The Art and Making of Penny Dreadful is a must buy. Even if you haven’t seen the show, it is still a lovely reading experience that any fan of gothic horror should be able to appreciate.

The Art and Making of Penny Dreadful Book Cover

Author: Sharon Gosling

Publisher: Titan Books

Released: 17th April 2015

R.R.P: £19.99

H/Back: 176 pages

ISBN: 9781783293728

Links: TitanBooks.com

Penny Dreadful © Copyright SHOWTIME Networks Inc.

GS Rating: 5/5

GS Reviewer: Casey Douglass

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