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 O’Melveny discovered a previously unpublished diary written by a woman in 1500s Venice who trained with her father as a physician.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, Library Thing and NetGalley.com as well as my blog.