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

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  • Posted April 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The premise of this novel is what attracted me to it. I thorough

    The premise of this novel is what attracted me to it. I thoroughly enjoy reading historical fiction with unique settings. Blue Asylum, however, has much more depth than a story set in a mental institution. Certainly, there are fascinating inmates – the woman who swallows small items, a cruel matron, a charming woman who imagines her husband is still alive and with her – but the story is much richer than that. Not only does it depict the powerlessness of women in that era, but it delves into themes of post traumatic stress syndrome, tragedy, hope, and resilience. More importantly, at the heart is an endearing love story.

    This novel is believable and richly detailed with fascinating characters, plenty of heartbreak, and inspiration.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2012

    Loved it!

    Loved it! A great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2014

    Just Wonderful!

    This is the second of Kathy's books I've read and I really enjoy her. The book moves right along and if you have to stop reading you can't wait to get back to it. Then, when you do it's like picking up with old friends. Just a wonderful read. I sure hope she is writing more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2014

    Good book, recommended.

    Young women today do not realize the many privileges they have. This book is in many ways the way women were treated. Education is the key to how you manage and control your life. We are so blessed today.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    SHERRIFFS OFFICE

    Here

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2013

    Emaly

    I love this book to the writter meet me at cool res one to talk thanks

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2013

    O.o

    Wait a minuete... SHE WORE a DIPER?! lol! Very awesome!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2013

    Alayna

    Whoa! I can't stop reading this!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    XY

    Really creepy, yet fun to read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Raylen

    Con. Tin. Ue.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    CHAPTER FIVE - THE NEW NORMAL

    Days went by and I got to really meet Seb. Turns out he was sent here by his parents after he began seeing the Guardian on a regular basis, late at night. A pamplet for the Asylum showed up in their mailbox and his parents were sold. He was picked up by a man and then given something that knocked him out. He woke up in the same position as I had been. <br>
    We were only allowed out of our rooms for meals and then we were escorted back. Meals consisted of what looked like cornmeal but was grey and more like mush. Rumor was that it was laced with drugs to render the patients unable to hold themselves up against the guards. And they were smart to do that, considering you need to eat to stay alive. <br>
    Every night I had dreams about me being chased down by the Guardian and attacked. Every time it got more gruesome. About the twentieth time, as I witnessed the Guardian ripping me to shreads with it's claws, I woke up in a pool of urine and was shaking in fright. In the morning, the guards removed me from my cell and took me into an observation room where I was strapped down on a bed on my stomach and lashed with a leather belt. I must have passed out from blood loss because I woke up later in a dry bed wearing what appeared to be a diaper. I noticed that quite a few other patients wore these, so nightmares must be a common thing around here... but then again, life in this nut-house was a nightmare come to life. <br>
    The only good thing about the Asylum was that you got whatever you wanted, except other clothes, in exchange for lashes. After my back was healed up, I got a sketch pad and a pencil for for 10 lashes each to keep me occupied. <br>
    It was like the negativity of the Asylum was slowly turning me insane. Every time I tried to draw something and my mind strayed away from the sketch, my hand would turn it into a sick, twisted version of the original. For example; I was drawing a woman morning the loss of a family member in a grave yard. I hadn't barely drifted away for a minute when the picture hand transformed itself into a woman rearing back as a zombie lurched at her from the grave, ripping at her gown. <br>
    I was finally becoming regulated to life in the Asylum. Does that make me insane? Probably, but at least I had a friend and a psychotic room mate to keep me company. Then, a small group of rebels broke out. I couldn't believe that someone had escaped from this he<_>llhole! Although, that event had it's downsides. <br>
    One meal a day, early curfew, endless interrogation for the whereabouts of the escapees. It was going crazy in this place. <br>
    When I couldn't think it would get any worse, it did. <br>
    The Reverends, as they were called, were the doctors that had been running this place. The two men that got me from the woods were only a chip compaired to the massive amount of Reverends that controlled the patients. Slowly, inmates began to disappear, along with any of their belongings. No one knows where they were going to. Rumor was that they were preforming grotesque experiments on us, giving us extra arms and eyes, that kind of thing, and then storing the mutated in the Ratways, the name given to the deepest, scariest part of the Asylum. Whatever was going on, I intended to find out. What was there to lose? My sanity? Pssh! That was thrown out the window days ago!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    Excellent.

    The characters were interesting. The setting added too. The story was different and engaging. A+++ job.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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