Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny


*GIVAWAY*
Title: The Book of Madness and Cures
Author: Regina O’Melveny
Publisher: 
 Little Brown and Company
Publication Date: 
 April 10, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: Dr. Gabriella Mondini, a strong-willed, young Venetian woman, has followed her father in the path of medicine. She possesses a singleminded passion for the art of physick, even though, in 1590, the male-dominated establishment is reluctant to accept a woman doctor. So when her father disappears on a mysterious journey, Gabriella's own status in the Venetian medical society is threatened. Her father has left clues--beautiful, thoughtful, sometimes torrid, and often enigmatic letters from his travels as he researches his vast encyclopedia, The Book of Diseases.

After ten years of missing his kindness, insight, and guidance, Gabriella decides to set off on a quest to find him--a daunting journey that will take her through great university cities, centers of medicine, and remote villages across Europe. Despite setbacks, wary strangers, and the menaces of the road, the young doctor bravely follows the clues to her lost father, all while taking notes on maladies and treating the ill to supplement her own work.

Review: Gender equality has always been an important issue. Even with today's increased opportunities, the fact remains that women are not always afforded the same chances that men receive. This longstanding struggle was even more common in the 16th century, where author Regina O'Melveny sets her debut novel. 

Dr. Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in Venice. While most women live more common lives, she has been afforded the chance to study medicine with her father, who is a well-respected doctor in is own right. Even though the guild of medicine is comprised entirely of men, her father has always done everything possible to ensure that his daughter becomes the best doctor she can be. When her father leaves the home to research maladies and cures to be published in his massive medical resource, The Book of Diseases, he leaves Gabriella to continue the family's medical practice. 

Years later, Gabriella is still home, facing mounting disapproval from the medical guild, while her father continues his mysterious journey, sending letters that leave minimal clues to his activities or whereabouts. When, one day, she receives a letter from her father stating that he plans to continue his research with no intentions of ever returning home, Gabriella, despite her mother's warnings, sets out to find her father and convince him to return. 

I have mixed feelings about this novel. Certain aspects worked extremely well. O'Melveny paints an accurate portrait of a young woman's struggle to reach her true potential. Set in the late 1500's the medical details, historical contexts, and character interactions are all fantastic. At times, however, I felt that the language of the novel got in the way of an otherwise intriguing story. The sections meant to portray the entries in the ongoing Book of Diseases seemed to be inserted in the middle of the plot, making the story a bit choppy. Overall, I think fans of historical fiction, mysteries and strong female lead characters will really enjoy this novel. Despite its setbacks, the story is strong enough to make this worth the read. 

Visit my blog to enter for your chance to win one of three copies of this book!

(contest ends 5/19)

3 comments:

Carl said...

I must admit I'm a bit confused. I would very much like to win a copy of this book. Hopefully by making this comment I'll either be entered in the draw or you will contact me to tell me what the proper procedure is. Here's hoping, Thanks!

carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

Ethan said...

To enter to win a copy of this book, follow the link below. This will lead you directly to the review/giveaway post on my site that contains the procedures.
-Ethan
http://e135-abookaweek.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-of-madness-and-cures-by-regina.html

Elizabeth said...

Oh does this book sound good.

Stopping by from the list for the tour of THE 2012 BOOK BLOGGER'S COOK BOOK.

Stopping by for a look around. Please enter me to win a copy.

THANKS.

OLD FOLLOWER.

Elizabeth

Silver's Reviews

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

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