Synopses & Reviews
JUST OUTSIDE LONDON, behind a high stone wall, lies Lake House, a private asylum for genteel women of a delicate nature. In the winter of 1859, Anna Palmer becomes its newest patient. To Anna’s dismay, her new husband has declared her in need of treatment and brought her to this shabby asylum.
Confused and angry, Anna is determined to prove her sanity, but with her husband and doctors unwilling to listen, her freedom will notbe easily won. As the weeks pass, she finds other allies: a visiting physician who believes the new medium of photography may reveal the state of a patient’s mind; a longtime patient named Talitha Batt, who seems, to Anna’s surprise, to be as sane as she is; and the proprietor’s bookish daughter, who also yearns to escape.
Yet the longer Anna remains at Lake House, the more she realizes that—like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake—nothing and no one is quite as it appears. Not her fellow patients, her husband, her family—not even herself. Locked alone in her room, driven by the treatments of the time into the recesses of her own mind, she may discover the answers and the freedom she seeks . . . or how thin the line between madness and sanity truly is.
Wendy Wallace’s taut, elegantly crafted first novel, The Painted Bridge, i s a s tory o f f amily betrayals and illicit power; it is also a compelling portrait of the startling history of the psychiatric field and the treatment of women— in society and in these institutions. Wallace sets these ideas and her characters on the page beautifully, telling a riveting story that is surprising and deeply moving.
"Journalist Wallace's first foray into book-length fiction (after the nonfiction Oranges and Lemons: Life in an Inner City Primary School) is a haunting look at women's asylums in 1850s England. Inciting her new husband's wrath by departing unannounced to help the survivors of a shipwreck, Anna Palmer has been sent to Lake House, within whose shabby confines she cycles through disbelief, denial, and anger. Home to a spectrum of women ranging from the truly deranged to the sane, the asylum subjects Anna to a horrendous array of treatments for her 'hysteria,' including torture, diuretics, and emetics. As Anna's mental state is toyed with by the staff, both the reader and Anna must question the boundaries of sanity. Filling out the story are Dr. Lucas St. Clair, who believes that the ability to see patients in two dimensions (a phenomenon afforded by the recent advent of photography) might hold the key to diagnoses, and Querios Abse, owner of Lake House, whose daughter may also suffer from mental illness. Wallace masterfully creates an atmosphere of utter claustrophobia and dread, intermingled with the ever-present horror of the reality of women's minimal rights in the 19th century. Agent: Ivan Mulcahy, Mulcahy Conway Associates. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"I was gripped by this fantastic book. Chilling, heart-warming, very well written and researched, this is an unusual novel about Victorian England." -Rosie Boycott, author of A Nice Girl Like Me and Our Farm
"The Painted Bridge
is something special: an intriguing and disturbing tale of the reality of women's lives behind the veil of Victorian respectability, which will have resonance today. Beautifully written and evoked." -Rachel Hore, bestselling author of A Gathering Storm
"An impressive debut with a captivating heroine and an absorbing storyline. A compulsive page-turner." -Catharine Arnold, author of Bedlam
"A haunting look at women's asylums in 1850s England...Wallace masterfully creates an atmosphere of utter claustrophobia and dread." -Publishers Weekly
“Soft, intricate and languid with a twist in the tale. This is a mesmerizing first novel.” —Viv Groskop, Red magazine (U.K.)
About the Author
Wendy Wallace is an award-winning freelance journalist and writer whose short stories have been published in Methuen and Iron Press. Before she turned to fiction, she was a senior features writer for the Times Educational Supplement for ten years, specialising in social issues in schools. In 2001, she was named Education Journalist of the Year. Her nonfiction book on life in an inner city primary school, Oranges and Lemons, was published by Routledge in 2005. Her journalism has also appeared in The Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Scotsman. She lives in London.