Blue Asylum

( 34 )

Overview

Publishers Weekly hails best-selling author Kathy Hepinstall's Blue Asylum as a "richly compelling Civil War-era tale." After defying her husband during the war, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is deemed insane and taken to Sanibel Asylum to receive treatments for her unruliness. There she meets another "broken" soul—Confederate soldier Ambrose Weller—and falls in love with him.

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Overview

Publishers Weekly hails best-selling author Kathy Hepinstall's Blue Asylum as a "richly compelling Civil War-era tale." After defying her husband during the war, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is deemed insane and taken to Sanibel Asylum to receive treatments for her unruliness. There she meets another "broken" soul—Confederate soldier Ambrose Weller—and falls in love with him.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hepinstall (The Absence of Nectar) exquisitely illustrates the fate of societal outsiders in this richly compelling Civil War–era tale of the former mistress of a Virginia plantation, now confined to a beautiful island asylum, and her burgeoning love for a traumatized Confederate soldier. Deemed insane by a judge after defying her husband, Iris Dunleavy insists to the well-meaning but arrogant doctor of Sanibel Asylum, Dr. Henry Cowell, that she is sane. Meanwhile, veteran Ambrose Weller fights to maintain control of his war-torn emotions. As the horrors of Iris and Ambrose’s pasts are slowly revealed, both Dr. Cowell and his alienated young son, Wendell, are irresistibly drawn to Iris, even as she plans her escape and wrestles with her love of Ambrose. Deftly interweaving past and present, Hepinstall sets the struggles of her characters against the rigidity of a traditional Southern society and the brutality of war in an absorbing story that explores both the rewards and perils of love, pride, and sanity itself. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"What sets Blue Asylum apart is Hepinstall’s luscious prose and the tension within each character that keeps the reader maddeningly off balance...Hepinstall makes inspired use of the Civil War as a means to explore notions of freedom, courage and, especially, opposing principals that both prevent and create change. Battle scenes, glimpsed briefly in Ambrose’s excruciating flashbacks, deliver knockout punches of quiet horror all the more affecting for their subtlety."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A fine novel embroidered with rich imagery."
Kirkus Reviews

"Features excellent pacing and strong character development that animate not only the inmates at the Sanibel Asylum but the characters from the preasylum lives of Iris and Ambrose. A first-rate choice for fans of intelligent historical romances."
Library Journal, starred review

"Hepinstall exquisitely illustrates the fate of societal outsiders in this richly compelling Civil War–era tale of the former mistress of a Virginia plantation, now confined to a beautiful island asylum, and her burgeoning love for a traumatized Confederate soldier... Deftly interweaving past and present, Hepinstall sets the struggles of her characters against the rigidity of a traditional Southern society and the brutality of war in an absorbing story that explores both the rewards and perils of love, pride, and sanity itself."
Publishers Weekly

"A deep sense of the natural world, often-lyrical prose, and some touches of southern Gothic help carry along this tale of obsession and redemption."
Booklist

"With Blue Asylum, Kathy Hepinstall presents the reader with the rare and delicious quandary of whether to race through and find out what happens to her characters or to linger over her vivid, beautifully crafted sentences. For me, the only resolution was to read it twice."
—Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound and When She Woke

"Blue Asylum is a gripping story of love and madness in the midst of the Civil War—I couldn’t put it down!"
—Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House

"Blue Asylum casts a spell that keeps the reader turning pages as if in a trance. The language is lyrical but the plot is taut and compelling. The horrors of the Civil War are made real and specific in the story of the wounded soldier and the persecuted wife who find love and hope in the unlikely setting of a supposedly enlightened insane asylum on an isolated island in the Deep South. Kathy Hepinstall is a master storyteller in full command of her craft."
—Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means

Library Journal
Iris Dunleavy must be mad. Why else would she have accompanied slaves trying to escape from her husband's Virginia plantation? When she arrives at the asylum on Florida's Sanibel Island in 1864 after being declared insane by a doctor and a judge, she tries to convince her captors of her sanity. Although the patients generally receive humane treatment, Dr. Cowell, the superintendent, applies the "water treatment" to those like Iris who remain defiant. As Iris's friendship with Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier who cannot cope with battlefield memories, deepens, Dr. Cowell's own attraction to the rebellious Iris grows. Determined to escape with Ambrose, Iris enlists the help of Dr. Cowell's 12-year-old son. Memories and revelations of events that led to the incarcerations of Iris and Ambrose slowly emerge and call into question what constitutes madness. VERDICT Hepinstall's (The House of Gentle Men) fourth novel features excellent pacing and strong character development that animate not only the inmates at the Sanibel Asylum but the characters from the preasylum lives of Iris and Ambrose. A first-rate choice for fans of intelligent historical romances. [See Prepub Alert, 10/31/11.]—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato
Kirkus Reviews
Iris Dunleavy is an abolitionist married to a slaveholder, a sane woman committed to an insane asylum, a married woman falling in love with another man. Hepinstall's latest novel (Prince of Lost Places, 2003, etc.) refracts the Civil War through the lenses of parallel conflicts: husbands and wives, fathers and sons, doctors and patients. Given rich psychological dimensions, each character strives to negotiate the lines balancing desire and control, power and compassion. The lines converge within the character of Iris, who longs for adventure. She has lived a comfortable, secure girlhood, and boys are lined up wanting to marry her. But all those boys are too familiar, so when Robert Dunleavy, plantation owner and slaveholder, comes to town, Iris is enthralled. Despite her father's misgivings, Iris marries Robert and enters married life happily--until she discovers the ugly underbelly of slavery. After embarrassing Robert, Iris is committed to Sanibel Asylum, populated with souls disturbed by the sheer difficulty of living. Along the way, three men enter Iris' life. Dr. Cowell hides his desire for power under the veneer of the consummate medical professional. Proud of his research linking the suffragette movement to increasing numbers of women committed to insane asylums, Cowell despairs of reforming Iris into a proper, submissive wife. Or perhaps his feelings run in a less-professional vein? Cowell's son, Wendell, on the cusp of adulthood, is just beginning to learn about the roles society imposes on men and women. Troubled by his memories of a past patient, Wendell is drawn to Iris, yet he, too, struggles to understand his own desires. And, finally, there is Ambrose Weller, a darkly handsome Confederate soldier haunted by mysterious memories. What can heal him? Cowell's therapies? Or Iris' love? A fine novel embroidered with rich imagery.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544002227
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/9/2013
  • Pages: 270
  • Sales rank: 166,800
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 7.88 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathy Hepinstall is the author of three previous novels, The House of Gentle Men (a Los Angeles Times bestseller), The Absence of Nectar (a national bestseller), and The Prince of Lost Places. She is an award-winning creative director and advertising writer, whose clients have included top brands in American business. She grew up in Texas.  

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Read an Excerpt

1

When Iris dreamed of that morning, the taste of blood was gone, and so was the odor of gunsmoke, but her other senses stayed alive. The voices around her distinct. The heel of a bare foot between her ribs. The pressure of the pile of bodies on her chest. Was this what the others had felt too, as they died around her? Her dream followed the reality so well that when the bodies were yanked away from her, one by one, the weight released and the darkness cleared, and she jerked upright, gasping, on the floor of a jail cell in Fort Lane. She’d been given a blanket and nothing else, not even a pillow, for she had been judged insane even before the trial began, and her jailers followed the logic that the mad shunned the comforts of the rational. When she awoke on the floor, on that cold blanket, she thought first of the man who had murdered those innocent people by the barely crawling light of dawn, but her rage held down something deeper, something that searched for oxygen to speak.

Her trial lasted less than an hour. The judge didn’t want to hear her story. None of it mattered: The wayward turkeys that ran into the woods. The porcelain tub full of bloody water. The pale, blue-eyed baby. The two small graves. Her fate had already been decided. She was convicted and sentenced and put on a train to Savannah with an armed guard, from there sent on a series of trains going west, and when the tracks ran out she was taken by open-air coach to the port at Punta Rassa.
   
On the last leg of her journey, she set sail for Sanibel Island on the Scottish Chief, which also carried a hundred head of cattle. She had been allowed to bathe and put on a traveling dress with ornamental braids and her best spoon bonnet. She had even been allowed to bring her best clothes with her in a steamer trunk. But she had not been allowed to tell the story that would have excused or at least explained her actions.
   
The ship was stifling hot. The scent of the cattle rose up from the hull below her, their excrement and fear. She smoothed her hair and tried to steady her breathing. She looked out to the calm flat sea and tried to be just as calm and flat herself, so that others could see there had been a mistake.
   
This feeling of hatred for her husband, Robert Dunleavy, had to be contained. The judge had seen it, and it had influenced him. Frightened him, even. Wives were not supposed to hate their husbands. It was not in the proper order of things. And so she worked on this too, buried the hatred, for now, in an area of Virginia swampland where the groundwater was red.
   
The lows of restless cattle came up through the floorboards. They would go on to Havana, where they would be slaughtered.
   
“How much longer?” she asked the guard.
   
“Not long.”
   
The ship churned slowly through the water. A large bird dove at the surface and came back up with a struggling fish. She nodded, her lids closing, and took refuge in a gray-blue sleep.
  
 She awakened as the ship was docking.
  
 “We’re here,” said the guard.
   
She stood and he bound her hands in front of her with a silk scarf.
   
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Regulations.”
   
He took her wrist gently and led her out to the gangplank, where she paused, amazed at the sight. Beautiful white sand beaches stretched into the distance. Palmettos grew on the vegetation line, and a sprawl of morning glories lay, still open, on the dunes. Coconut palms flanked the perimeter of the building itself, a huge two-story revival with Doric columns and tiered wings that jutted out on either side. A courtyard had been landscaped with straight columns of Spanish dagger. On the building, a sign:
   SANIBEL ASYLUM FOR LUNATICS
   
A judge had signed the order. A doctor had taken her pulse and looked into her eyes and asked her a series of questions and confirmed that yes, something in her mind was loose and ornery, like a moth that breaks away from the light and hides instead in the darkness of a collar box. The heat made her shudder. Her dress was wet in the back. She moved her eyes away from the sign and noticed a blond boy and a large Negro man fishing in the surf. Both of them stared at her. The man was so black he made the pale boy beside him look like a ghost. The boy kept touching something on his cheek.
   
“Time to head in, ma’am,” the guard said, and for just a moment she thought of hurling herself into the water and letting the folds of her traveling dress pull her down to the bottom. She shook off the thought, steeled herself, and gingerly made her way forward, difficult as it was to balance with her hands tied in front of her.

The blond boy, whose name was Wendell, had been fishing for snook with the chef, a freed Negro from Georgia, who was using his prized snakewood baitcaster. The chef was fishing and talking, fishing and talking, fishing and talking, a rhythm he had perfected through the years. His topic of conversation, on this morning, was his castor bean garden — his latest attempt at growing wealthy overnight — and he would have succeeded already if a rare frost hadn’t killed the plants this past winter. Federal prisoners in Tortuga were dropping dead left and right from yellow fever. The treatment: castor oil. His new batch of castor beans was hardy, and although they covered just a half-acre at present, he had plans for expansion. 

Overhead, a brown pelican circled.
   
“Of course I don’t wish yellow fever on any man,” the chef said.
   
Wendell wasn’t listening. He’d just caught a glimpse of the ship. “It’s a side-wheeler,” he announced.
   
The chef pressed his lips together, annoyed by the interruption. He followed Wendell’s gaze. “Scottish Chief. That’s Summerlin and McKay’s ship. It’s probably taking more cattle to the Bahamas.”
   
The side-wheeler steamer approached the dock.
   
“Why is it stopping here?” Wendell asked.
   
“I heard we got a new one.”
   
“Oh?” Wendell cocked his head slightly to one side, his way of showing intrigue. “Maybe it’s a really crazy one.” Those were Wendell’s favorites; lunatics were captivating, and the crazier the better. He had lived around them all his life, because his father was the superintendent and chief psychiatrist of the asylum. Wendell believed he was crazy himself, and it was only a matter of time before it was discovered in him and he was locked away with the others. He watched the boat, his eyes wide and drying out in the sea air. The end of his cane pole dipped downward.
   
“Look, boy,” said the chef. “You got one!”
   
The pole jerked and danced in Wendell’s hands. He pulled back too hard. A weighted hook, still with half the bait on, came flying and landed in Wendell’s cheek. He sucked in his breath as the hook stuck fast, the fishing line trailing off into the wind. Blood ran down in a trickle from the new puncture. He was hooked good now, good as any fish.
   
“You did it again,” the chef muttered, shaking his head as he cut the line to free him. “Third time this year. You must have a magnet in your head somewhere. Go in and find someone to cut that hook out of you.”
   
Wendell wasn’t listening. His head was cocked again. The fishhook dangled from his cheek. A woman had appeared on the gangplank. Slender and pale, chestnut-colored hair gathered in a chignon. Properly attired in a dress and white gloves. A single white feather adorned her bonnet. Her hands were tied in front of her.
   
“She looks just like any other person,” Wendell said.
   
“Lunatics have a way of blending in, like green snakes in the grass. Go on in, now. Your blood is scaring off the fish.”
   
“She can’t be crazy!” Wendell insisted.
   
She seemed to hear him, turning her head toward him, staring at him a long moment. He froze. The trickle of blood slowed and dried in a new breeze.
   
“You best stay away from the patients,” the chef said. “Remember what happened before, with Miss Penelope.”
   
The hook had stung a bit, but the name hurt him deeper. The chef’s baritone had evoked it without warning. The name had a barb on it, too. Instantly he remembered Penelope’s freckled skin, her long red hair, which she refused to tie back, her crystal-blue eyes and perpetual half-smile, the doll in a pinafore dress she carried around with her. His father was not inclined to tell him anything about the patients and had instructed the nurses and guards to be equally reticent around the boy. So Wendell gleaned information by eavesdropping on fragments of conversation. Penelope was from New England and suffered from a sadness of indeterminate origin that had evidently driven her, one night, to attempt to hang herself with the sash of her nightgown. After the finest doctors in Boston had failed to conceive of a cure, her family had sent her to the island in the desperate belief that sunlight and the fragrance of tropical flowers could restore some kind of radiance to her sad, addled brain. She was seventeen years old, and had God not killed her, she could have grown to be an old woman, and Wendell an old man, so old that the gap in their ages would mean nothing.
   

Wendell looked back at the woman on the gangplank. He stroked the hook in his cheek until another bead of blood appeared and ran down to his chin. He wiped off the gore, looked at it.
   
Penelope.
   
The name still hurt him. No one had cut it out of him yet.

Iris stepped off the gangplank and onto dry sand, the short heels of her leather boots crunching in it. Above her, white birds circled, shrieking down at her. A tear slid down her cheek before she could stop it. Annoyed, she bent her head and shrugged her shoulder to wipe the tear away. As she approached the courtyard she saw what wasn’t visible from a distance. The windows had bars on them.
   
A dozen people milled about the courtyard, guarded by attendants in white uniforms. One young man sat alone at a small round table set up near the steps. He had high cheekbones and was dressed in army-issued pants, a white shirt, and a thin coat. He wore a slouch hat. A checkerboard sat in front of him, set for a game. He looked up as she approached him. Something about his gaze was comforting. He glanced at her bound hands and nodded, as though remembering his own hands had once been tied that way. The man did not seem insane. Only deeply sorrowful. And if sorrow were a diagnosable offense, perhaps she was mad after all.

The man at the checkers table, Ambrose Weller, had watched the new patient come down the gangplank and make her way through the sand. He could tell she was a stranger to the coast, some genteel woman from further up South, completely out of her element. The way she moved, so dignified and calm, as though on a Sunday walkabout, reminded him of graceful sea birds he had seen after a storm, washed up on the beach, wings broken, wounded, and yet still attempting the gait characteristic of their species.
   
He had arrived on the island screaming and cursing, four strong men restraining him. He had to be carried all the way to his room and tied to his bed, dosed with laudanum until the visions faded into the sweet syrup of delirious forgetfulness, and his mind finally let go of its torments in the same reluctant way a child surrenders his playmates to the call of his mother.
   
He thought about the woman, remembering a time when he could, clearheaded, desire one. Then some bolt of memory reminded him that nothing was the same anymore. Dr. Cowell, the psychiatrist, had told him that the secret was not so much in forgetting as in distracting oneself. Think of the color blue, the doctor had suggested. Blue, nothing else. Blue ink spilling on a page. A blue sheet flapping on a clothesline. Blue of blueberries. Of water. Of a vase a feather a shell a morning glory a splash on the wing of a pileated woodpecker. Blue that knows nothing, blue of blank recollection, blue of a baby’s eyes, a raindrop in a spider’s web, a vein that runs from hand to wrist, the moon in scattered light, the best part of a dream and the sky, the sky, the sky ...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 34 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • 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
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2012

    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 tiresome as the eternal suffering. Wish I had not indulged.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    recommend

    a good read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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.

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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 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 May 20, 2012

    Loved it!

    Loved it! A great read.

    2 out of 2 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 July 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I recommend this novel ...so much so I have already passed it on!

    I enjoyed this novel by Kathy Hepinstall.

    Set during the Civil War. Iris Dunleavy the main character, was a plantation owner's wife who dared to speak her mind. Her thoughts and opinions on slavery eventually managed to get her tried and convicted of insanity. Iris is eventually sent to Sanibel Island in Florida where she will meet a set of interesting characters.

    At the asylum, Iris believes she can prove to the staff and head doctor that she is not insane and that she was wrongly committed to the asylum. She is so desparate for someone to listen to her and hopefully send word home to her Mother and Father who have no idea what had been going on in her married life and that she had been committed to the asylum.

    The only person who really listened to her was a troubled confederate solider named Ambrose Weller and the doctor's son, Wendell.

    Iris and Ambrose eventually fall in love and set out on a journey together with hopes of leaving behind their past and the asylum forever.

    I would recommend this novel. I have to say I do feel a bit let down with the ending but I understand why the author had to go that way.






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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Unique story.

    Unique 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 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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    Bookie

    It was okay. A lot of blah, blah, blah. Would have been better with a lot less repetition.

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  • 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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