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The Book of Madness and Cures: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES, by Regina O'Melveny This book is

THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES, by Regina O'Melveny

This book is an excellent example of the reason why book lovers read. Because every once in a while we get to read a book this good.

If I didn't know better I'd almost believe Ms. O'Melveny discovered a previously un...
THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES, by Regina O'Melveny

This book is an excellent example of the reason why book lovers read. Because every once in a while we get to read a book this good.

If I didn't know better I'd almost believe Ms. O'Melveny discovered a previously unpublished diary written by a woman in 1500s Venice who trained with her father as a physician. This is the story of her journey to find her father who left Venice to seek more information to include in the book he is writing (with his daughter's assistance) called "The Book of Madness and Cures" detailing the understanding of mental illness, or "madness" as it was conceived at the time.

As her father traveled through Europe and England, meeting with other Doctors to gather information for his book, he sent letters back home, sharing what he learns and what he thinks about the information. His letters become more and more disturbing and distressing in tone, and come less and less frequently.

After ten years, the daughter decides she must follow her father and find him, leaving Venice with two servants, using her father's letters as a guide. The journey is fascinating as are the people she meets. At that time, in some places, if it was discovered she practiced "medicine" especially using any herbs or plants or their derivatives, she would be accused of witchcraft and executed, so she must hide her training and knowledge, while seeking out and engaging doctors her father mentioned in his letters.

I will not spoil the book by continuing with the story, but it is so very, very worth reading to find out.

Ms. O'Melveny's voice is rich, authentic, poignant and moving. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I am quite sure it is one I will remember for many years.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for a review and will be posting it on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads and Library Thing and subsequently on a blog of reviews I am preparing.

posted by Muse_of_Hell on September 8, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

A unique romp around Europe in the renaissance era.

Delivered in a first person narrative The Book of Madness and Cures is a Renaissance tale of the life of Dr. Gabriella Mondini a women physician living in the 16th century in Italy. Gabriella practices medicine during a time when women holding this title were considered...
Delivered in a first person narrative The Book of Madness and Cures is a Renaissance tale of the life of Dr. Gabriella Mondini a women physician living in the 16th century in Italy. Gabriella practices medicine during a time when women holding this title were considered to be witches or sorcerers and when persecution was high. However Gabriella lives in Venice which is a little more advanced in their belief systems. Gabriella decided to leave her comfortable live to travel across Europe in search of her father who seems to have disappeared. With nothing left of her father but old letters he had sent her Gabriella decides to leave her disapproving mother behind in search of her father. With some donkeys and her servants Gabriella heads out on a long journey. Along the way her planned stops consist of her fathers previous colleagues where at times Gabriella learns some disturbing things about her father.

I found their travels interesting and uneventful. However I felt this book was lacking something when it came to the characters themselves. Although I enjoyed them, at times they were quite odd including Gabriella herself. I can imagine this is to be expected for this era and what the characters lacked the author made up for with historical detail. This book was great in the historical fiction category. However I feel it would work best for those who are more into the renaissance era overall as sometimes I found it hard to relate to the peculiar behavior and prose used by the author.

posted by autumnbluesreviews on April 22, 2012

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    Gender equality has always been an important issue. Even with to

    Gender equality has always been an important issue. Even with today's increased opportunities, the fact remains that women are not always afforded the same chances that men receive. This longstanding struggle was even more common in the 16th century, where author Regina O'Melveny sets her debut novel.

    Dr. Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in Venice. While most women live more common lives, she has been afforded the chance to study medicine with her father, who is a well-respected doctor in is own right. Even though the guild of medicine is comprised entirely of men, her father has always done everything possible to ensure that his daughter becomes the best doctor she can be. When her father leaves the home to research maladies and cures to be published in his massive medical resource, The Book of Diseases, he leaves Gabriella to continue the family's medical practice.

    Years later, Gabriella is still home, facing mounting disapproval from the medical guild, while her father continues his mysterious journey, sending letters that leave minimal clues to his activities or whereabouts. When, one day, she receives a letter from her father stating that he plans to continue his research with no intentions of ever returning home, Gabriella, despite her mother's warnings, sets out to find her father and convince him to return.

    I have mixed feelings about this novel. Certain aspects worked extremely well. O'Melveny paints an accurate portrait of a young woman's struggle to reach her true potential. Set in the late 1500's the medical details, historical contexts, and character interactions are all fantastic. At times, however, I felt that the language of the novel got in the way of an otherwise intriguing story. The sections meant to portray the entries in the ongoing Book of Diseases seemed to be inserted in the middle of the plot, making the story a bit choppy. Overall, I think fans of historical fiction, mysteries and strong female lead characters will really enjoy this novel. Despite its setbacks, the story is strong enough to make this worth the read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A unique romp around Europe in the renaissance era.

    Delivered in a first person narrative The Book of Madness and Cures is a Renaissance tale of the life of Dr. Gabriella Mondini a women physician living in the 16th century in Italy. Gabriella practices medicine during a time when women holding this title were considered to be witches or sorcerers and when persecution was high. However Gabriella lives in Venice which is a little more advanced in their belief systems. Gabriella decided to leave her comfortable live to travel across Europe in search of her father who seems to have disappeared. With nothing left of her father but old letters he had sent her Gabriella decides to leave her disapproving mother behind in search of her father. With some donkeys and her servants Gabriella heads out on a long journey. Along the way her planned stops consist of her fathers previous colleagues where at times Gabriella learns some disturbing things about her father.

    I found their travels interesting and uneventful. However I felt this book was lacking something when it came to the characters themselves. Although I enjoyed them, at times they were quite odd including Gabriella herself. I can imagine this is to be expected for this era and what the characters lacked the author made up for with historical detail. This book was great in the historical fiction category. However I feel it would work best for those who are more into the renaissance era overall as sometimes I found it hard to relate to the peculiar behavior and prose used by the author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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