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Muse's Books

Book 140: The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny

Book 140: The Book of Madness and Cures.
Author: Regina O'Melveny, 2012.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Late 16th Century. Mental Illness. Medicine.
Other Details: Hardback. 314 pages.

Gabriella Mondini is a strong-willed young Venetian woman, who had studied medicine by working alongside her celebrated doctor father. Yet by 1590 with the disappearance of her father on a mysterious journey, Gabriella's status in the male dominated Venetian medical society is threatened. Over the years her father has sent her letters giving details of his travels and researches for his vast encyclopaedia, The Book of Diseases. Gabriella decides to find him by following the trail left by his letters. The journey takes her through great university cities, centres of medicine, and remote villages across Europe. She faces setbacks and various menaces of the road in her quest. While following the clues left by her lost father Gabriella also takes notes on various maladies as well as treating illnesses that she encounters.

I felt caught up from the start with Regina O'Melveny's story of a woman during the late Renaissance and her quest to find her father who had left Venice ten years before. Gabriella's passion for medicine was conveyed well as was the difficulties she faced due to her gender. While in Venice her position was contested; in other cities and countries her practising of medicine could led to imprisonment or even execution.

Regina O'Melveny's prose was beautiful, especially in terms of descriptions of the places they travelled through and I was also intrigued by the various illness that Gabriella wrote up in her journal. My only wish was that there was an author's note about the historical background and sources she'd drawn upon.

Regina O'Melveny website - contains excerpt, detailed synopsis, notes on inspiration and maps of Gabriella's travels.
Tags: historical fiction, mental health

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