Customer Reviews for

Blue Asylum

Average Rating 4
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(16)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

If you are looking for a book to read on the beach or just to wh

If you are looking for a book to read on the beach or just to while away a quiet afternoon, that will draw you in and beckon you back, this is it. Written with a prose that is at once simple and yet profound, as it deftly describes the atmosphere, in the luxury asylum f...
If you are looking for a book to read on the beach or just to while away a quiet afternoon, that will draw you in and beckon you back, this is it. Written with a prose that is at once simple and yet profound, as it deftly describes the atmosphere, in the luxury asylum for lunatics where Iris Dunleavy has been sent by her husband, this book won’t disappoint you. It is an illuminating vision of what life was like for a woman who opposed a husband in a position of authority, when she had none.

Iris is a soft spoken, but impulsive and determined woman. During the time of the Civil War, the women of the south were really under the control of their husbands, as were the slaves on their plantations, and, they too, were expected to be obedient and subservient to them. It was often the treatment of headstrong women, to be sent to lunatic asylums by their more powerful, cruel and arrogant husbands, in order to prevent them from embarrassing them, or themselves, by engaging in activities they deemed not respectable or proper for a lady. Engaging in women’s right’s movements or the politics of the day, was frowned upon, and thought to be unladylike subjects unfit for the delicate mind and constitution of women. Defying one's husband, especially in a public situation, was an absolutely humiliating affront to him and was, generally, not tolerated.

Immediately, on the first page, the readers are drawn into the story as they watch Iris as she stands on the deck of the ship taking her to the asylum in Virginia. Her back is straight and he demeanor calm. Her first thoughts are of the beauty of the location as she draws near. She sees a child and a black man, the son of the doctor who is the head of the asylum and the chef, fishing off the pier. She watches a young man, Ambrose, a former soldier suffering from the trauma of war, as he sits quietly before a checker board and appears quite normal. The relationship that blooms between Iris and Ambrose is a major theme.

The book makes you wonder, who is mad, who is sane, who gets to decide? Is Dr. Cowell fit to be the judge or is he just as mad as his patients? What motivates him? Is it his ego or his desire to return these people to the outside world again? Are the people who are employed there just a little mad also, or are they the victims of the madness surrounding them? Are the patients mad or has the environment they have been subjected to created the mental illness? Are women weak and frail, unfit to participate in the activities of men? Did Iris behave like a woman who has lost her sanity? Is Iris Dunleavy mad or is she simply the victim of her husband's authority?

This book is very intense. Near the end I was almost afraid to read on, fearful of the conclusion. I wondered if it would be happy, sad, gruesome? The author builds up the pressure until you feel afraid to turn the page for fear of what you will read. Although the ending is completely unexpected, I found it a little bit disappointing. On the whole, though, this is an imaginative, creative and original story. The chapters are short and easy to read. You won’t lose interest, because when you feel you might, the subject changes, just at the right time, and the story continues to hold your attention.

Can mental illness be cured? Can mistakes be forgiven? Can love conquer all? On the very last page, there is a scene with a lady who dances with a husband who isn’t really there. She imagines him into life. Is this the message of the book? Is she better off than those who live in misery, missing the person that isn’t there, the appendage that isn’t there, yearning for something unattainable? How do we find happiness? Did the doctor’s own arrogance and narcissism cause the events that transpired? The story will make you wonder what madness is, and who, indeed, is mad? In the 1800’s, psychiatry was in its infancy, the methods were untried and untested, the treatments were sometimes barbaric. Have we made any progress today or have we merely given the diagnoses, treatments and medications a different name? This book definitely packs a wallop and it will remain with you for a long time.

As an aside, if you enjoy this book, you might also want to see the film, "Iron Jawed Angels". It is a wonderful movie about the women who fought for the right to vote in the early 1900's, and the men who ruled over them, having them imprisoned indefinitely in asylums, as punishment for their outspoken behavior, believing this would cure them and return them to their conciliatory state of mind. Their pride was more important than their wives independence; even those that were well loved were mishandled in this way.

posted by thewanderingjew on April 27, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Anonymous April 24, 2012

An ill wind blows through this book and nothing bodes well for anyone. War is certainly hell but there's only so much suffering a reader can withstand. Misery is the common thread that binds these characters and also sums up the plot. Metaphors abound and become as t...
An ill wind blows through this book and nothing bodes well for anyone. War is certainly hell but there's only so much suffering a reader can withstand. Misery is the common thread that binds these characters and also sums up the plot. Metaphors abound and become as tiresome as the eternal suffering. Wish I had not indulged.

posted by Reader49SB on April 26, 2012

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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  • Posted April 27, 2012

    If you are looking for a book to read on the beach or just to wh

    If you are looking for a book to read on the beach or just to while away a quiet afternoon, that will draw you in and beckon you back, this is it. Written with a prose that is at once simple and yet profound, as it deftly describes the atmosphere, in the luxury asylum for lunatics where Iris Dunleavy has been sent by her husband, this book won’t disappoint you. It is an illuminating vision of what life was like for a woman who opposed a husband in a position of authority, when she had none.

    Iris is a soft spoken, but impulsive and determined woman. During the time of the Civil War, the women of the south were really under the control of their husbands, as were the slaves on their plantations, and, they too, were expected to be obedient and subservient to them. It was often the treatment of headstrong women, to be sent to lunatic asylums by their more powerful, cruel and arrogant husbands, in order to prevent them from embarrassing them, or themselves, by engaging in activities they deemed not respectable or proper for a lady. Engaging in women’s right’s movements or the politics of the day, was frowned upon, and thought to be unladylike subjects unfit for the delicate mind and constitution of women. Defying one's husband, especially in a public situation, was an absolutely humiliating affront to him and was, generally, not tolerated.

    Immediately, on the first page, the readers are drawn into the story as they watch Iris as she stands on the deck of the ship taking her to the asylum in Virginia. Her back is straight and he demeanor calm. Her first thoughts are of the beauty of the location as she draws near. She sees a child and a black man, the son of the doctor who is the head of the asylum and the chef, fishing off the pier. She watches a young man, Ambrose, a former soldier suffering from the trauma of war, as he sits quietly before a checker board and appears quite normal. The relationship that blooms between Iris and Ambrose is a major theme.

    The book makes you wonder, who is mad, who is sane, who gets to decide? Is Dr. Cowell fit to be the judge or is he just as mad as his patients? What motivates him? Is it his ego or his desire to return these people to the outside world again? Are the people who are employed there just a little mad also, or are they the victims of the madness surrounding them? Are the patients mad or has the environment they have been subjected to created the mental illness? Are women weak and frail, unfit to participate in the activities of men? Did Iris behave like a woman who has lost her sanity? Is Iris Dunleavy mad or is she simply the victim of her husband's authority?

    This book is very intense. Near the end I was almost afraid to read on, fearful of the conclusion. I wondered if it would be happy, sad, gruesome? The author builds up the pressure until you feel afraid to turn the page for fear of what you will read. Although the ending is completely unexpected, I found it a little bit disappointing. On the whole, though, this is an imaginative, creative and original story. The chapters are short and easy to read. You won’t lose interest, because when you feel you might, the subject changes, just at the right time, and the story continues to hold your attention.

    Can mental illness be cured? Can mistakes be forgiven? Can love conquer all? On the very last page, there is a scene with a lady who dances with a husband who isn’t really there. She imagines him into life. Is this the message of the book? Is she better off than those who live in misery, missing the person that isn’t there, the appendage that isn’t there, yearning for something unattainable? How do we find happiness? Did the doctor’s own arrogance and narcissism cause the events that transpired? The story will make you wonder what madness is, and who, indeed, is mad? In the 1800’s, psychiatry was in its infancy, the methods were untried and untested, the treatments were sometimes barbaric. Have we made any progress today or have we merely given the diagnoses, treatments and medications a different name? This book definitely packs a wallop and it will remain with you for a long time.

    As an aside, if you enjoy this book, you might also want to see the film, "Iron Jawed Angels". It is a wonderful movie about the women who fought for the right to vote in the early 1900's, and the men who ruled over them, having them imprisoned indefinitely in asylums, as punishment for their outspoken behavior, believing this would cure them and return them to their conciliatory state of mind. Their pride was more important than their wives independence; even those that were well loved were mishandled in this way.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    BLUE ASYLUM by Kathy Hepinstall is an interesting Historical Fic

    BLUE ASYLUM by Kathy Hepinstall is an interesting Historical Fiction set post Civil War. It has Civil War horrors,sanity,madness, plantation life as you follow Iris Dunleavy through her times of trials and the thin lines between sanity and madness. Iris Dunleavy is a plantation owner’s wife on trial for madness,and sent to an Asylum because her husband wants Iris to obey his every word. He is not only a cruel husband and land owner but expects to get his way in all things. Iris is sent to an Asylum where she finds not only insanity but friends. Enter Ambrose,a wounded soldier,also in the Asylum. With a wounded soldier,a spirited but wounded women a seemingly impossible love,lost,grief,a call for freedom, and the need to escape the atrocities of war. The Asylum has a group of residents that will call to your heart as they try to make sense of the world around them and their lost of innocence. A charming and absorbing tale of love lost,love found, and the courage to begin again. Received for an honest review from the publisher.Details can be found at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,the author’s website,and My Book Addiction and More.
    RATING: 4
    HEAT RATING:Sweet: No sex or scenes of physical intimacy except some kissing. No graphic violence or profanity.
    REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction and More

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 10, 2012

    INTERESTING READ

    This was a huge insight into the civil war era life for women. In the modern day world we forget just how different life was for the women before us and before we had a voice. The premise of the book was the main reason I bought the book and it was not disappointing. The story moved slowly at times but kept me wanting to read more. This is not an uplifting positive read but is a book that all women must read in order to appreciate how amazing our place in society is today.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2013

    Unusual story.

    This is a good book. The locale, period, and circumstances were excellent. It was a thought-provoking and compelling story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Blurring the Lines Between Insanity and Sanity

    Blue Asy­lum by Kathy Hep­in­stall is a fic­tional book tak­ing place in an insane asy­lum dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War. The lines between insan­ity and san­ity are always blurred and this is espe­cially true dur­ing war time.

    Dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War Iris Dun­leavy, wife of a Vir­ginia plan­ta­tion owner, was put on trial and found to be insane. Mrs. Dun­leavy was sent away to Sani­bel Asy­lum to return to her for­mer self of a com­pli­ant woman.

    Con­fed­er­ate solider Ambrose Weller is ter­ror­ized by mem­o­ries which can only be calmed by think­ing of the color blue – until he meets Iris. Together Iris and Ambrose fetch a plan to escape.

    Blue Asy­lum by Kathy Hep­in­stall is a solid story which blurs the lines between what’s real & imag­i­nary, sane & insane and right and wrong. The novel is short and fast paced with clear writ­ing and excel­lent char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. I could vividly see the char­ac­ters, scenery and set­tings in my mind’s eye.

    This is an intrigu­ing book with com­pelling writ­ing. Ms. Hep­in­stall has a won­der­ful lin­guis­tic gift which makes her work enjoy­able to read. There are many themes to the book san­ity, slav­ery, love, and more.
    What is it like being sane in an insane world and being insane in an insane world are some of the sub­jects that are being touched on.

    The char­ac­ter which I found most dis­turb­ing is Dr. Cow­ell, the super­in­ten­dent of the asy­lum. Dr. Cow­ell is not a sadist, he is a good man and a good doc­tor who really believes his the­o­ries about the supe­ri­or­ity of men over women. Dr. Cow­ell spends a lot of his time and money on help­ing the folks in the asy­lum – some­times at the expense of his own family.

    Yet Dr. Cow­ell can­not help his wife who is going mad, his son who is a self-professed lunatic (he’s not) and strongly believes in a method of tor­ture to “help” the patients which he cares so much about and pre­scribes large amounts of med­ica­tion to. Dr. Cow­ell also believes that those who live out­side the norms of soci­ety are “insane”. A strange belief for a per­son who spent his life work­ing out­side the sys­tem and who works in a field where dis­prov­ing pre­vi­ous the­o­ries is one of the few ways to make break­throughs.
    The hypocrisy, cyn­i­cism and unbe­knownst to them sin­is­ter acts of a good per­son is some­thing I find scary and, unfor­tu­nately, wit­ness almost daily.

    I enjoyed read­ing this book very much, but even though the author cer­tainly shows a mas­tery of the Eng­lish lan­guage, I felt that some­times the sym­bol­ism and metaphors were more in-your-face in a novel which issues are not brought up and in an era where sub­tlety was key.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2014

    Batman

    "Um sure. Can we talk later?"

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    Posted October 23, 2012

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    Posted February 26, 2013

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    Posted February 9, 2014

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