The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny

44%

17 Critic Reviews

Readers will be delighted by O’Melveny’s whimsical embellishments, though veterans of historical fiction may balk at the poetic, metaphor-laden prose and fancifully piebald construction.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Dr. Gabriella Mondini, a strong-willed, young Venetian woman, has followed her father in the path of medicine. She possesses a singleminded passion for the art of physick, even though, in 1590, the male-dominated establishment is reluctant to accept a woman doctor. So when her father disappears on a mysterious journey, Gabriella's own status in the Venetian medical society is threatened. Her father has left clues--beautiful, thoughtful, sometimes torrid, and often enigmatic letters from his travels as he researches his vast encyclopedia, The Book of Diseases.

After ten years of missing his kindness, insight, and guidance, Gabriella decides to set off on a quest to find him--a daunting journey that will take her through great university cities, centers of medicine, and remote villages across Europe. Despite setbacks, wary strangers, and the menaces of the road, the young doctor bravely follows the clues to her lost father, all while taking notes on maladies and treating the ill to supplement her own work.

Gorgeous and brilliantly written, and filled with details about science, medicine, food, and madness, THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES is an unforgettable debut.
 

About Regina O'Melveny

See more books from this Author
Regina O'Melveny's poetry has been published widely in literary journals, garnering several prizes. She grew up at the edge of pungent chaparral in La Mesa, California, and chose to enroll at Callison College--a school of International Studies at the University of the Pacific--almost solely based upon the fact that the second year would be spent in India. Thus began her many extended travels that would later inspire The Book of Madness and Cures, her first novel. She lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
 
Published April 10, 2012 by Little, Brown and Company. 337 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Romance. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Book of Madness and Cures
All: 17 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 12

Kirkus

Excellent
Mar 15 2012

O’Melveny writes with rococo flourish, but Gabriella’s journey becomes a slog.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
Feb 20 2012

Readers will be delighted by O’Melveny’s whimsical embellishments, though veterans of historical fiction may balk at the poetic, metaphor-laden prose and fancifully piebald construction.

Read Full Review of The Book of Madness and Cures | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

AV Club

Below average
Reviewed by Samantha Nelson on May 07 2012

Unfortunately, weak writing makes it just a missed opportunity.

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BookPage

Excellent
Reviewed by Sheri Bodoh

The text has a gentle feel as it explores parenthood, gender, the consequences of leading and following and the two-sides/same-coin experience of human togetherness and solitude.

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Historical Novel Society

Excellent
Reviewed by Richard Bourgeois on May 01 2012

This book is rich in historical flavor, and the language is gorgeous throughout.

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We Love This Book

Below average
Reviewed by Fiona Martin

But in her portrayal of characters and places, there are many details which O’Melveney should have left to the reader’s imagination in order to have saved this novel from being clichéd.

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Boston.com

Below average
Reviewed by Jan Stuart on Apr 02 2012

As a character, however, she’s hamstrung by the blah predictability of type: the willful, ever-resilient pioneering woman whose laser focus and righteous indignation prompts an older male colleague to remark, “You were always headstrong, Gabriella.’’

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Cleveland.com

Below average
Reviewed by Kristin Ohlson on Apr 24 2012

As a character, Gabriella is not as compelling as her circumstances, and her journey seems muted.

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Mail Online

Below average
Reviewed by Christena Appleyard on Apr 26 2012

But, although O’Melveny is already a successful poet, there are times when the book feels like there is another search going on... that of a writer in search of her true voice.

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Bookin With Sunny.

Excellent
Reviewed by Ann Ronald on Apr 02 2012

...we were lost and found in a world of mag­i­cal real­ism, a land of pic­to­r­ial and philo­soph­i­cal touch­stones where Gabriella’s expe­ri­ences and her imag­in­ings were our alter­nat­ing guides.

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Fiction Writers Review

Below average
Reviewed by Lauren Hall on Apr 06 2012

Characters frequently alternate between overwritten, stilted language (presumably indicative of time period) and casual, contemporary conversation—sometimes within a paragraph.

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Newcity Lit

Below average
Reviewed by Kelly Roark on Mar 28 2012

Regardless of the overreaching elements, so common in first novels by poetic writers, O’Melveny vividly recreates this unique time in history, allowing the reader to easily immerse themselves.

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Elle

Excellent
Reviewed by Ben Dickinson on Apr 09 2012

Her journey, with two loyal servants in tow, is filled with incident ... all conveyed with earthy and sensual brio, clearly well-researched evocations of time and place, and, not surprisingly, poetical description

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EDGE Boston

Below average
Reviewed by Emelina Minero on Apr 05 2012

Although the imagery and detail are strong, it is simultaneously a weakness, sometimes slowing down the forward momentum of the story.

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That's What She Read

Below average
Reviewed by Michelle on Mar 27 2012

The Book of Madness and Cures is enjoyable from the historical aspect but rather unexciting when it comes to the plot and all of the various characters, making for a jagged story that one can only recommend to others with the utmost caution.

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Devourer of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Jen on Apr 12 2012

Although it starts strong, The Book of Madness and Cures fails to live up to its full potential.

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Fictitious Musings

Below average
Reviewed by Jennifer on May 03 2012

The historical aspects of the story were grand but in the end that’s all they were, just a bunch of beautiful organized words describing a time that eludes us.

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Reader Rating for The Book of Madness and Cures
59%

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