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Blue Asylum

de Kathy Hepinstall

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
3514255,284 (3.6)25
Put on trial by her slaveholder husband and convicted of madness by a Virginia judge, Iris Dunleavy is sent to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good wife. But Iris knows her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of violating Southern notions of property. A pompous superintendent heads this asylum populated by wonderful characters, including his self-diagnosing twelve-year-old son, a woman who swallows anything in sight, and Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris. The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." In this isolated place, she finds love with Ambrose. But can she take him with her if she escapes? Will there be anything for them to make a life from, back home? This novel is the story of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the call of freedom.… (més)
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As the United States fights a Civil War, Iris Dunleavy wages a battle at her Virginia plantation home against her husband’s tyranny. As a result, she is “convicted of madness,” and is sent to an island asylum off the coast of Florida.

I wanted to like this. I thought the premise was interesting and that there would be some opportunity to learn more about the issues of the time, especially as it concerned treatment of the mentally ill. But I was sorely disappointed.

Hepinstall populates the novel with a wide array of characters: Dr. Cowell, who prides himself on running such a “modern” asylum; the matron, obviously modeled on Nurse Ratched; Wendell, the doctor’s pubescent son; Mary, the doctor’s wife who is more neurotic and needy than most of the patients; the chef, who has befriended Wendell; Ambrose, a confederate officer suffering from PTSD; and various other patients, from the charmingly odd to the deranged and violent. The doctor’s wife was a wasted opportunity. She floats in and out of the novel, much as she must float in and out her of laudanum-induced haze. Poor confused Wendell spends more time masturbating and hiding in the swamp than interacting with the characters; still, he plays a pivotal role.

There are a few positives. Iris is (mostly) a strong female lead character. If she occasionally acts against her own best interests, well, I think that’s easily understood given her circumstances. But her decisions and behavior in the last few chapters are just ridiculous. One moment she seems to have some sense of self-preservation and is thinking along those lines, the next she’s throwing caution to the winds and behaving in a manner that is sure to attract unwanted attention.

Perhaps Hepinstall was trying to give the reader a sense of the disorientation a truly sane person must feel in such a mandated confinement. If that was her intention, then she mostly succeeded. But, like Iris, I just wanted to escape. ( )
  BookConcierge | Mar 9, 2020 |
If you like dark, gothic, Civil War era stories, this is a good read. ( )
  RobertaLea | Apr 6, 2019 |
Blue Asylum is a story about standing up for yourself, and being punished for it. Iris Dunleavy is a woman who simply wants to speak her mind. The wife of a plantation owner, she finds herself aghast at the treatment of the slaves. In a mad attempt to do something to help, poor Iris finds herself in a "modern" asylum. What Kathy Hepinstall has created here is a heart wrenching story about a misunderstood woman, who just wants to be heard.

The characters in this story are colorful, vivid and very enjoyable to follow. Iris especially is one witty and wonderful woman. Her views on the world are strong and well thought out. As her story unfolded, I began to wonder precisely why she was in the asylum at all. Hepinstall paces the story beautifully though, and bread crumbs are laid out to show the past that is haunting Iris' existence. However it isn't only Iris who shines off the page. Each inhabitant of the asylum has their own quirks, their own personality, and I found myself intrigued by them. It makes for a very immersing read.

Blue Asylum is all about healing, misunderstandings, and, underneath everything else, blind hope. It is easy to see how women were mistreated during this time period. Still, the more I read the more I felt myself feeling just like Iris. There are moments when the line between sanity and madness really does blur. What I can definitely say is that this is a piece of historical fiction that is well done. It drew me in, and before I knew it I was turning the last page.

At the end I was still left with some pressing questions, which I'll admit irked me a bit. Overall though Blue Asylum was a very enjoyable and quick read. Fans of Historical Fiction will find a lot to love between these pages. The vivid characters themselves are enough to draw the reader in, and keep them there until the end. If there is more out there from Kathy Hepinstall, I'd love to read it! This may be my new favorite genre. ( )
  roses7184 | Feb 5, 2019 |
It was the book blurb that attracted me to this story because it reminded me a bit of Laura Kinsale’s ‘Flowers from the Storm’ and let me tell you: I LOVED THAT BOOK!

In the case of this book, I wish I could say the same.
It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t what I hoped it would be.
It left me feeling confused, and rather empty, hollow. It didn’t quite fulfill my expectations of good story telling and the romance wasn’t as passionate as it was applied in the books blurb.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book it would be – depressing. I felt it lacked direction and purpose and despite its fast pace it fell short of the mark: to grab my attention and keep me interested in the world portrayed.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
( )
  bookworm2bookworm | Mar 30, 2017 |
This book really snagged me right from the beginning because I love historical fiction and I love books set in insane asylums, a win win!

Accused of being insane by her husband, Iris Dunleavy is put on trial, judged to be mad and sent off to an asylum on Sanibel Island in Florida. Set during the Civil War, the story unfolds through the eyes of Iris, as we follow her journey by train and boat to this remote location.

Iris is an attractive woman, a lady, not the usual type of person that is committed to such a place and she isn't insane. Her only crime is not being a compliant wife for her plantation owning husband. She abhors slavery, and the cruelty and violence that her husband inflicts on his own slaves. Her husband hopes that she can be 'cured' at the asylum and come back to him a more malleable wife.

At the beginning I thought the theme of this book would center around the lack of rights that women held during this time period (or for many years afterwards for that matter). After all we have Iris's husband easily getting her sent away for displeasing him and we have the doctor at the asylum thinking that women who speak their minds or get emotional suffer from hysteria and need to be administered a cure.
But somewhere along the line the writing and the story seemed to get a little watered down and lose some of its power. It was still a good book, but I felt like the last half of the story didn't live up to its beginnings.
( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
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When Iris dreamed of that morning, the taste of blood was gone, and so was the odor of gunsmoke, but her other senses stayed alive.
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Dr. Cowell, the psychiatrist, had told him that the secret was not so much in forgetting as in distracting oneself. Think of the color blue, the doctor had suggested. Blue, nothing else. Blue ink spilling on a page. A blue sheet flapping on a clothesline. Blue of blueberries. Of water. Of a vase a feather a shell a morning glory a splash on the wing of a pileated woodpecker.
“Dr. Cowell says you have to be the master of your own remembering,” he said.
“That sounds like something he’d say,” she said, trying to keep her voice neutral. Master of her own remembering. And yet the doctor did not believe her memory. It was copper next to her husband’s gold.
Since the day Iris Dunleavy had thrown his paper out of the window, they had engaged in what could not be called treatment or even discussion, but open combat, the two of them a microcosm of the great war raging in the far distance: one side that desired autonomy, and the other that took independence as a sign of madness.
That new-lover spell, when the world must be right because their joy wills it so, was broken, replaced by the sullen realness of the day, when a creek was pretty without being magical, and birdsong was pleasant but not transcendent, and shadows and light make puzzles but not revelations.
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Put on trial by her slaveholder husband and convicted of madness by a Virginia judge, Iris Dunleavy is sent to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good wife. But Iris knows her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of violating Southern notions of property. A pompous superintendent heads this asylum populated by wonderful characters, including his self-diagnosing twelve-year-old son, a woman who swallows anything in sight, and Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris. The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." In this isolated place, she finds love with Ambrose. But can she take him with her if she escapes? Will there be anything for them to make a life from, back home? This novel is the story of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the call of freedom.

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