The beginning of this book took me by surprise, for a horrible moment I thought this was going to be a poorly researched voyage into the late nineteenth century; I was wrong, this book was a mixture of authentic details of life in the changing world of lunatic asylums along with a gripping mystery about what really happened on the fateful day when Lady Anne Stanbury killed her son. So why my initial hesitation? The language used was more modern than would usually be found in historical novels which I initially found quite off-putting. Anne uses colourful language, but she was incarcerated for being insane so this is entirely fitting with the illness and later on as she makes steps towards recovery the use of profanities declines.
The story is told from multiple viewpoints including her Dr George Savage’s daily notes on his wealthy patient. Dr Savage is a leading psychiatrist at Bethlem Royal Hospital where he alone can be the one to free Anne from the hospital. The doctor is walking a thin line, as in his eagerness to see Anne become well enough to leave the hospital he starts counselling her husband, Edgar. Edgar is using alcohol as a crutch as he struggles with opposing emotions about his wife and needs all the help he can get!
For the reader who enjoys their historical mysteries to be well-plotted with a firm grip on the newest ideas of the times this is well worth a read. I confess that I had some quibbles about the language used and minor historical facts at the crux of this book were well researched providing an enjoyable read on a subject rarely covered.
When Rachel emailed me about this book I was intrigued. I suspect I know more than most people about infanticide and mental illness during this period as I was a proof-reader for my daughter’s dissertation on this very subject. As in many areas I became interested in the books and articles she carted backwards and forwards to university and soon progressed to on-line historical newspapers which covered these tragic cases. One of the related subjects that I picked up along the way was that of baby-farming. Amelia Dyer the chief perpetrator makes an appearance in the Medea Complex and although I didn’t quite agree with the context it did go some way to sum up the complex morality in late Victorian England which is neatly echoed by this accomplished debut.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for this honest review.
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