Monday, June 25, 2012

The Book of Madness and Cures

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O' Melveny
Gabriella Mondini is a doctor in Venice in 1590. She has decided to search for her father, also a doctor who left home 10 years ago to research for his book on maladies (madness). By taking his letters with her, she uses them as her map to find him. Letters from France, the Kingdom of Spain and Scotland are some places from where the letters were sent. The journey begins in Venetia, Venice, and leads the reader north as far as Edenburg and down to Tanger. There is a map on one of the front pages, always a nice feature.
During this period of time women doctors were considered to be doing witchcraft rather than being a doctor. The only reason she was accepted into the Guild of Physicians as a doctor was because of her father. She was told her she had to resign after he was gone.
On her journey are two of her servants, Lorenzo and his wife, Olmina. Gabriella's mother does not want her to leave but Gabriella is a determined lady.
On their journey they face many hardships as well as meet new people. Many knew of Gabriella's father which encouraged her to keep traveling. Dr. Baldino told Gabriella "Nothing is certain. But it's true that your father wandered the land at night, wrestling with something unknown in himself" (page 194).
At times, the women had to cut their hair and dress as men, endure cold weather, illness and short supplies of food.
People were always greeted in Venice even by strangers but not everywhere, Gabriella found as she traveled.
During this time, Gabriella kept taking notes and writing information collected about cures and herbs for the book The Book of Diseases.
Some notes I took were:
They traveled the lands of the Christians and Moors.
The Julian and Georgian calendars used in two different places (page 189). Understanding the Julian to Gregorian Calendar The United Kingdom and all their colonies, like the American Colonies, did not recognize the Gregorian calendar (also known as Western or Christian Calendar) until September 1752, so leading to the main reason for two different years on many records; such as 1712/1713.
They found different religions and how they felt about other religions (Catholics were not always welcome). Herbs and plants for healing and how many were used. Gabriella took notes for the book. She thought the majolica jars for apothecaries were not as nice as in Venice (page 260).
The hardships they endured, the food they ate and what they had to drink. Yunnan Tea made in tea cakes "Here we have the uncommon Yunnan tea that the Dutch nobles enjoy for over a hundred silver ducats a pound" as Signor Vincenzo Gradenigo shared it with Gabriella, Lorenzo and Olmina. (page 163).
I really liked the descriptions of the places, food, herbs, dress of the different areas and the people.
No sex and no bad language. Some disasters along the way.
I think the author, Regina O' Melveny has done a wonderful job on The Book of Madness and Cures. It is a book I could re-read even though I know the end. I liked the quick conclusion of the story. It was brief but still complete.
The author may be reached at
I will give it a five star.
I received a complimentary copy of The Book of Madness and Cures to read and review from the author and the Hachett Book Group.The opinions are my own.
Leona Olson


Nickie said...

I recently read a historical fiction novel, and I was looking for another to pic up. Thanks for the recommendation -- I'm putting this on request at the library :)

I found your blog via bookblogs. Mine is
I hope you will drop by!

Leona's Reviews said...

Thanks, Nickie.
I will check on your blog.
Here is another review you might like to read:

Harvee Lau said...

I have this book, Leona, and hope to read and review it this summer!