The Book of Madness and Cures
By Regina O'Melveny
(Back Bay Books, Paperback, 9780316195812, 352pp.)
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
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A brilliant debut about a woman doctor in Renaissance Venice, forced to cross Europe in search of her father.
Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in 16th century Venice: a woman who practices medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has provided her entrée to this all-male profession, and inspired her at every turn. Then her father disappears and Gabriella faces a crisis: she is no longer permitted to treat her patients without her father's patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where-and why-he has gone. Following clues from his occasional enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses border after border, probing the mystery of her father's flight, and opening new mysteries of her own. Not just mysteries of ailments and treatments, but ultimate mysteries of mortality, love, and the timeless human spirit.
Filled with medical lore and sensuous, vivid details of Renaissance life, THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES is an intoxicating and unforgettable debut.
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.
"Regina O'Melveny's debut novel, The Book of Madness and Cures, is a marvelous, inventive story of a singular courageous woman on a quest to find her missing father. Set in the Renaissance, it explores the wonders, and dangers, of Europe and Asia Minor and recreates a world--exotic and familiar, sensuous and beguiling--where a defiant woman, practicing the ancient healing arts, is believed to be contrary to the laws of God and Man."—Kathleen Kent, author of The Traitor's Wife and The Heretic's Daughter
"....[A]n elegant portrait of a resolute woman who practices medicine in 16th-century Venice...The writing is superb, particularly when the author describes..exotic locales and ancient superstitions. The book will especially attract readers who enjoy female centered historical novels whose plots are not driven by romance."—Lucy Roehrig, Library Journal
"[Gabriella Mondini's] journey is conveyed with earthy and sensual brio [and] clearly well-researched evocations of time and place, and...poetical description....You will love this adventure."—Elle Magazine
"Poet O'Melveny's debut fiction is like a lyrical composite creature-part father/daughter epistolary novel, part aristocratic diary, part adventurer's travelogue, and part compendium of allegorical diseases...Readers will be delighted by O'Melveny's whimsical embellishments."—Publisher's Weekly
"[A] picaresque fiction debut...a provocative window into early medical pronouncements on everything from depression to claustrophobia..."—Jan Stuart, The Boston Globe
"O'Melveny's writing is smooth and evocative. Gabriella proves a likeable traveling companion, and her first-person narration keeps things moving along....Readers will find much to enjoy in this colorful, picaresque tale."—David Maine, Popmatters
"Gorgeously written, and filled with details about science and medicine, this is an unforgettable debut novel."—Tara Quinn, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Infused with the sensuous places and metaphorical natural world that recur in [O'Melveny's] poetry..."—Anne Gray Fischer, Ploughshares
"Intriguing.... Every new chapter brings a new adventure and a new piece of the puzzle."—Claire Rivero, The Washington Independent Review of Books
"Reminiscent of The Red Tent, Anita Diamant's book-club favorite..."—Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
"[A] darkly whimsical first novel..."—Kirkus Reviews