#462 ~ The Book of Madness and Cures

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny

Published by: Little, Brown and Company

Published on: April 10, 2012

Page Count: 336

Genre: Historical Fiction

My Reading Format: Audiobook review copy sent to me for consideration by Hachette Audio.

Audiobook Published by: Hachette Audio

Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

Audiobook Length: 10 hours 24 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher

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.

My Review

If you had a stack of letters from your father who was never to return home and you wanted to go looking for him, where would you start? Would you start from the first letter he sent you or from the last? Personally, when I’ve lost something or someone, I start with the last place I’d been in contact with that thing or that person. Gabriella is a smart woman. She’s been extremely well educated by her father and practices as a physician and she was in desperate need to find her father quickly. While I loved her drive and her moxie, I could not get over the fact that she followed her father’s path chronologically from the beginning. Why in the world would she do that? It made me feel as the desire to write about so many interesting places in medieval Europe and Africa was more important than the story.

I really couldn’t overcome this to enjoy The Book of Madness and Cures. Because I felt that the journey was artificial, I couldn’t get terribly interested in what Gabriella was doing or seeing along the way. Even if she started in Morocco, I’m not sure that this book would have held my interest. There were a few moments when my curiosity was piqued and I thought finally something was going to change the novel’s momentum, but those scenes never built into anything more. I even found myself hoping that Gabriella’s father was a werewolf. This isn’t something I normally hope for in a book.

Katherine Kellgren’s narration, full of enduring enthusiasm and with an excellent vocal range, was the only thing that kept me from giving up on Gabriella’s never ending journey. Kellgren brought personality and feeling to the characters. Along with its smooth production, she made this audiobook the best that it could be.

While I do not recommend The Book of Madness and Cures, I did find Gabriella to be an interesting character. I wanted her to succeed and I am glad that she ultimately found resolution and peace.


  • At 2012.09.03 07:22, bermudaonion(Kathy) said:

    I’ve only read a few reviews of this one and they all agreed with you – I think I’ll skip it.

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    • At 2012.09.04 21:58, Jennifer said:

      Life’s really too short, Kathy, and Katherine Kellgren has narrated much better books. 🙂

    • At 2012.09.03 09:32, rhapsodyinbooks said:

      I also found this book very disappointing. I love the cover though and I love stories about women from that time, but this one just didn’t do it for me either! (And what about that hugely dropped plot line about the murder of the possible suitor?)

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      • At 2012.09.04 22:01, Jennifer said:

        I’m glad, for the sake of this review, that I’d forgotten about the murdered suitor who just so happens to end up on the slab. Had I remembered it, my review would have gone on for another couple of paragraphs. That event, in and of itself, would have made for a good novel. What a missed opportunity that was. What happened to him? Ack!

      • At 2012.09.03 10:09, Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said:

        Thanks for your honest review. I do love KK.

        • At 2012.09.04 22:02, Jennifer said:

          KK was the bright spot. 🙂

        • At 2012.09.03 20:07, Katherine Kellgren said:

          I’m honored if you liked my performance! Thank you so much for listening, and for your thoughtful review. Your kind words about my narration mean a lot to me!

          • At 2012.09.04 22:02, Jennifer said:

            Thank you for being the bright spot in this book. 🙂

          • At 2012.09.03 22:41, Michelle said:

            I didn’t listen to this but read it in print and felt the same way you did. The story itself was so…contrived. I had issues with a young female traveling on her own with only two servants, and only one of those is male, during a time where single females just didn’t do that. It had so much promise but just failed to live up to its own expectations.

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            • At 2012.09.04 22:04, Jennifer said:

              Oh, that’s another good issue I could have taken in my review. The close calls she had because she was female were not all that entertaining at all. I would have rather seen her on trial for witchcraft – and come out successfully alive, of course – than what actually happened.

            • At 2012.09.11 04:02, Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting said:

              What a shame. I had high hopes for this one. Thanks for your honest review, though!

              (Required, will not be published)

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