Friday, June 26, 2015

The Book of Madness and Cures / Regina O'Melveny

Gabriella Mondini lives in 16th Century Venice, a Dottoressa by trade, thanks to the support and tutelage of her father. Together they are writing The Book of Diseases, an encyclopaedia of all known diseases, cures, and uses for medicinals. Dr Mondini leaves Venice to research further diseases and cures, leaving only a trail of letters that become erratic, enigmatic, and troubling, before they dry up completely.

His letters lead Gabriella to suspect her father may suffer some illness, or some form of madness. She sets out to find him, against her mother's wishes, taking her old nursemaid Olmina, and Olmina's husband Lorenzo, as her companions.

It is an arduous journey, with prejudices against women, witches, and Catholics evident along the way. Gabriella has her hope, her stubborn determination, the good nature of Lorenzo, the unfailing support of Olmina (even if she does complain), and her continued work on The Book of Diseases to sustain her.

This book is Regina O'Melveny's first novel, beautiful and lyrical, as you would expect from an award winning poet. Please do go to her website and read her Author's Note, even if you don't read the book. It may convince you, where I fail.

Category: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Who'll want to read it? People who love travel, history, an interest in illnesses of the body and the mind.

Point of no return: page 5
I didn't know then that during those fugitive hours beneath the influence of the damp moon, I was already plotting my future in pursuit of the past. ... It was then I knew I must set my life in motion or I would disappear.

Classic entry:
Page 59
When One Is Weighed by a Leaden Sadness
Melancholia seeps into one's life like the metallic sand of an hourglass. Despondency accrues. One suffers from inertia and wan complexion. My friend Messalina grew so disconsolate that no one could find a cure, not even my father. The use of plants with a moist nature, such as watercress, lovage, and water parsley, could not counter her dry, cold humor. It is said that the black bile of melancholia devours even stone with its terrible acid.

Publisher: John Murray

name, date Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

1 comment:

Jaime said...

Read the Authors note - Sounds great!