A Madness So Discreet
Katherine Tegan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2015
Grace Mae is 15 (or 16) years old, pregnant and consigned by her senator father to a Boston insane asylum in the 1800’s. Even though she is the victim of rape, all that matters to him is appearances and so for appearance sake, she is hidden away until the pregnancy comes to its natural end. While locked away Grace is subject to further horrific treatment by the hospital staff and when she strikes out physically against the doctor in charge she is sent to the cellar, all but forgotten in the pitch dark and sewage-filth. But Grace is shown kindness in the most unlikely of places (and people) and she escapes to an asylum in Ohio where she eventually finds a new life of peace and purpose.
This book deals with dark themes of incest, murder, insanity and ultimately, revenge. The gruesome descriptions of the events in the Boston asylum are mercifully short and there is no graphic violence – most of the violence is off stage and the descriptions of the deaths are not too grisly . I was captivated from the first and compelled to keep reading about Grace’s journey. The darkness of the beginning of the novel is relieved small kindness that come her way and by the lightness of her life in Ohio, but the horrors done to her in the past are just under the surface. Even though the overarching theme is one of madness, the book itself wasn’t depressing.
My only negative mark would be the transitioning between two points in time toward the end of the book. Without revealing much of anything (because I hate spoilers), towards the end of the book there is a time gap of several months between major events. That, in and of itself, is not troubling. What is troubling is that at the end of one chapter it’s winter and the beginning of the next it is full blown spring and a major event is occurring. As I was reading I felt lost and like I was missing something – like maybe an interim paragraph or chapter – or even just an blank page – some device to let me know several months had past.
This review also published on Sunny Book Garden under the non de plume of ‘Debby’.