Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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. When 16th-century Venetian doctor Gabriella Mondini is barred from practicing medicine, she sets off across Europe in search of her father, a respected doctor who left under mysterious circumstances 10 years ago to gather material for his Book of Diseases. As a rare female doctor, Gabriella needs his mentorship, but his letters have grown increasingly incoherent; as she follows his route, she hears disturbing stories about his erratic behavior. Forced to cut off her distinctive red hair, she travels as a man through villages empty of women and girls after mass witch burnings. Her own adventures begin to rival the tales in her father's letters as she encounters suspicion, condescension, respect, and even romance. Gabriella's father continues to elude her, and she must face the possibility that she no longer knows where to find him. Yet she cannot resume her own life until she does. Gabriella's servants Olmina and Lorenzo accompany her and act as a pair of Sancho Panzas, providing mild salt-of-the-earth comic relief when not worn down by a yearning for home. By the time Gabriella reaches Morocco, where she believes her father to be, she too yearns for the comforts of Venice. But she has changed in ways that will greatly complicate her return. 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. Maps. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
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.
About the 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.