The Book of Madness and Cures

The Book of  Madness and Cures

Regina O’Melveny

Little Brown & Co.  2012.  320 pgs.

Other books I’ve read by O’Melveny:  none.  This is a debut novel; author has two books of poetry out.

Ugh.  320 pages of slog and it was my OCD madness about never quitting books that kept me going to the confused and sorry end.  I wanted a little break in my Challenge reading and I’m a sucker for historical fiction — particularly about medicine — but this was a total waste of time.  I should have kept chipping away at Howards End, like a good girl.  Oh, well.

Gabriella is supposedly a female physician in 1590 Venice.  Her father, a renowned physician, has gone walk-about in Europe, doing research for his encyclopedia of diseases.   The trouble is, papa’s letters home are getting more and more disturbed.  So Gabriella and two faithful servants set off to follow him.  But they don’t actually have a lot of info on where Daddy is — just snippets of letters home, sometimes not dated.  So the trio have to trace his footsteps as best they can, going on the last place he was heard of.  Their travels take them to Germany, Holland, Scotland, France and eventually to Spain and Morocco.

Now, I love historical fiction but it’s got to be somewhat realistic.  How come everyone is so nice to our little trio?  A journey of hundreds of miles across semi-medieval Europe and no one even gets robbed?  My commute is scarier than the journey these guys took — at least according to O’Melveny.  Where did they get all the money they would have needed to keep things going?  How come Gabriella can talk to pretty much everyone — no matter what country they end up in?  How come 30-year-old Gabriella is such a stud magnet?  That would have been practically middle-aged back then.  Do you think peeps ever really made love in a library in 1590 Edinburgh?  I mean, I’ve worked in libraries for years, even been aware of students (and staff) partying and carrying on in libraries.  I’ve seen Party Girl, too.  But….just, no, this scenario didn’t work for me.  Last, for a book about doctors, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of medicine in it.

So, chalk this one up to a temporary madness and a pretty cover on the new book shelf at the library.  I’m cured — now, back to the Challenge.

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