Little, Brown and Company
Hatchette Book Group
New York, New York
Life in Venice, Italy in the year 1590, Gabriella Mondini is a well-respected doctor with many patients who appreciate her care as a female doctor. She was accepted as a physician in Venice because of the well-respected influence of her father who is also a physician. However brilliant, her father leaves the city, with his absence, Gabriella is no longer allowed to practice medicine.
Her father seems to be own personal quest. This might simply be an excuse for his mental illness. He frequently suffered from fits of manic behavior and times of withdrawal and depression. He views his travels as an opportunity to complete his resource book of maladies and cures.she is no longer allowed to practice medicine.
Gabriella's father had a special relationship with his daughter. His wife, Gabriella's mother had a different perspective and preferred the tradional roles of the time.
Gabriella was her father's daughter. Her mother did not understand her daughter's attraction to medicine. She was naturally slightly jealous of their relationship.Gabriella realized that she was well-respected in the community only because of her father.
With her father's leaving Venice, Gabriella is no longer allowed to continue to treat patients. She had a special bond with many women patients since she really understood their ailments. The local community of physicians do not allow her to practice without her father's support.
Without being able to practice medicine, she had no strong connections to the community. Gabriella decides to find her father and to somehow help him to return to Venice to resume his life and her life as a physician. Gabriella pursues her quest to find her father accompanied by her faithful servants Olmina and Lorenzo.
Being a woman accompanied by both a male and female servant helps in her travels tremendously but many people are wary of a female physician in this male-dominated occupation. Gabriella strives to learn as she travels creating her own resource book of maladies and the treatments.
Oftentimes, I felt that this book was closely following somewhat similar journeys and adventures of Don Quixote, especially with the supportive servants. The book excelled in character development and a true sense of the time and place. The pacing was uneven which is to be expected of a debut novel.
The Book of Madness and Cures is a wonderful debut novel for Regina O'Melveny. The intended audience is for those who enjoy historical romance novels. The strength of this novel is the historical research into the setting actually placing the reader in the time period traipsing around Europe. There was even consideration to the Gregorian and the Julian calendars and their ten-day difference. Gabriella and her father were well-developed characters along with her servants. Many of their adventures seemed contrived but overall it was an enjoyable book. For a debut novel, unquestionably delightful.