Bedlam by Greg Hollingshead
A Novel of Love and Madness

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An extraordinary novel of three people caught up in the turmoil of the late eighteenth century, their lives intertwined in an age of war and revolution

Bedlam's eighteenth-century London is a city teetering between darkness and light, struggling to find its way to a more just and humane future. 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. From the enduring love of Matthews and his wife, to the despair of Bethlem's inmates, to the moral agonies of John Haslam, Greg Hollingshead's eye for rendering the human condition has never been finer. This is a novel that pulses with insight and compassion, in which imagination bridges the chasms between fantasy and reality, love and hate, and loss and reconciliation.


About Greg Hollingshead

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Greg Hollingshead has won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction for The Roaring Girl and is the author of The Healer, which won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was a Giller Prize finalist. He lives in Edmonton, where he is professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, and he is also director of writing programs at the Banff Centre. Visit his Web site at
Published September 2, 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books. 399 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Margaret and Jamie alternate narration with John Haslam, the “apothecary” of Bedlam, who has mixed motives for continuing Jamie’s confinement.

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The New York Times

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the sun is “a solar disk the color of soot-streaked copper.” Cruel Dr. Haslam, the master of the hospital, touches on one of the novel’s nerves when he considers “how you can think of yourself as a certain sort of person yet watch yourself behave as quite another,” noticing the way you tell yours...

Oct 15 2006 | Read Full Review of Bedlam: A Novel of Love and M...

Publishers Weekly

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In 1797, James Tilly Matthews was committed to Bethlem (aka Bedlam), the notorious British lunatic asylum, after nattering on about an "air loom" machine used by villains to control people.

Jul 10 2006 | Read Full Review of Bedlam: A Novel of Love and M...

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