Bedlam: A Novel of Love and Madness by Greg HollingsheadHistory stands naked, clothed only by our imagination. So a historical novel has a particularly difficult task: breathing life into a story without losing it in a maze of research. In his keenly detailed new book, the Canadian writer Greg Hollingshead offers the pleasures of this sort of undertaking, despite eventually losing his balance under the weight of the past. After this wrenching, lunatic scene, the novel details, in three different narrative voices, a prolonged struggle both to release him and to discover the possibly political reason for his incarceration. Interspersed are the emotional letters husband and wife write to each other and one touching note from their son.
ISBN 13: 9780312354749
Just a book found on a bookstore shelf that I thought looked cool. Not really a mystery, or horror, or adventure, or thriller, or whatever. Well written, would probably be interesting for mental Good but not as engaging as I would have thought. Some period pieces well described, particularly the Georgian dinner parties and their fascination with the edge of science.
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But in its darkest corners, where noblemen, pickpockets, royalists, and republicans jostle one another for power and where corruption is all in a day's work, Greg Hollingshead finds humanity, truth, decency, and forgiveness. Conspiracies, plots, and paranoia sweep across England in the aftermath of the French Revolution, landing James Tilly Matthews in Bethlem Hospital, a notorious, crumbling home for the insane. Although he is clearly delusional, Matthews appears to be incarcerated for political reasons. Margaret, his beloved wife, spends years trying to free her often lucid husband, but she is repeatedly blocked by her chief adversary, John Haslam, Bethlem's apothecary and chief administrator. Haslam, torn between his conscience and a desire to further his career through studying his increasingly famous patient, becomes another puppet in a game governed by shifting rules and shadowy players. Enlivened with wit and intellectual daring and written in prose that resonates with time and place, Bedlam sweeps the reader into a strange yet somehow recognizable world.