The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny
Posted by Caitie F on March 26, 2012
Title: The Book of Madness and Cures
Author: Regina O’Melveny
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Summary from goodreads:
Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in 16th century Venice: a woman who practices medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has provided her entrée to this all-male profession, and inspired in her a shared mission to understand the secrets of the human body.
Then her father disappears and Gabriella faces a crisis: she is no longer permitted to treat her patients, women who need her desperately, without her father’s patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where-and why-he has gone. Following clues from his occasional enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses Switzerland, Germany and France, entering strange and forbidding cities. She travels to Scotland, the Netherlands, and finally to Morocco. In each new land she probes the mystery of her father’s flight, and open new mysteries of her own. Not just mysteries of ailments and treatments, but ultimate mysteries of mortality, love, and the timeless human spirit.
If you have been looking for a historical fiction story that has not been told time and time again, look no further than this book. It is a lovely debut about a young woman’s search for her father and finding more of herself along the way.
There is a rich look at Europe and parts of Africa in the 1590s. Gabriella’s journey takes her all over and the beautiful imagery had me longing for Europe, especially Scotland where I visited years ago. The richness of the setting and encounters with all of the different people made it a book that was very easy to get lost in.
I also loved Doctor Mondini, as Gabriella prefers to be called. She is a brilliant doctor, even if those in Venice have refused to let her practice anymore due to her sex. She will not let this stop her as she travels and is always looking to learn more about ailments and healing and is willing to help others whenever she can. Her defiance of typical gender roles made for an engrossing read.
I am only giving it a “get this from the library” because I felt like it dragged. Between the letters from her father and her descriptions of the ailments, the book slowed down considerably. It was interesting reading the “ailments” and “cures” from today’s perspective, yet I think it could have been much more seamless at times.
That said, if you are a fan of historical fiction and are looking for something different, this is a great choice!