Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book of Madness and Cures

by Regina O'Melveny, 320 pages

A "road" novel set in 16th century Europe, Madness follows Gabriella Mondini as she travels across countries in search of her physician father. He left the family some years ago to complete research for his book of "madness and cures." Gabriella is also trained as a physician and worked on the book with her father. When he disappears into the north, she goes to look for him with her two loyal servants. They travel from Venice all the way to Scotland, and then back south to Morocco. Gabriella has to hide her profession most of the time, and the fact that she's a woman as well. While the descriptions are lovely, the action and character motivations are chopped and muddy. When a certain body turns up, I was sure there was another mystery to solve, but nothing ever came of it. Much of the action in the story seems pointless and sad.

In ways it reminded me of Ariana Franklin's Adelia Aguilar series (Mistress of the Art of Death) because the main character is also a woman physician who must hide her profession. Yet there is a warmth and sense of humor in Franklin's books that Madness lacks. I think the cover sucked me in  because it's so obviously based on Leonardo DaVinci's portraits.

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