Thursday, April 17, 2014

From the Bookshelf: Blue Asylum

I finished up Blue Asylum this weekend.

The story opens with plantation wife Iris Dunleavy on a boat, being taken to a lunatic asylum on Sanibel Island.  She has been sent there after a court trial by her "caring and supportive" husband, who hunted her down after she helped a group of slaves escape from their plantation.  Iris is convinced she is not crazy and thinks she will be able to make her case to the doctor at the asylum.  The doctor, however, is convinced that she has upset the natural order of things by defying her husband in such a crazy way.   On the island, the lunatic asylum houses all sorts of folks - from an older lady who sees and converses with the ghost of her dead husband, to a very proper lady who happens to eat things like buttons and rings, to the torturted Civil War veteran, Ambrose Weller.  The story also pulls in the doctor's wife (who has her own little laudanum addiction) and his young son.

While plotting her escape, Iris falls in love with Ambrose, who is still tormented by flashbacks to his war days, and who the doctor has encouraged him to think of calming things - anything blue - blue water, the blue wall paint, blue china, blue silk - help him overcome these "fits".  Iris enlists the help of the doctor's son, who has experienced his own disillusionment with his father, to help her and Ambrose escape.

No spoilers here - You'll have to read the book if you want to see if the escape is successful or not.  

I enjoyed this one.  The writing is lovely and lyrical in places.  There are lots of things to think about regarding moral issues and what the definition of "sanity" is.  Things have definitely come a long way from cold-water bath treatments to be sure!  I liked the way the author unfolded each of the main characters' stories, just giving little bits and pieces in reminiscences and conversation, until a fuller picture of each was created.  A very enjoyable read.

Next up, I've cracked open a book my Da sent me in the last box of hand-me-down books from him,  A Dark Dividing, by Sarah Rayne.

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