Blue Asylum
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Blue Asylum

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  2,808 ratings  ·  505 reviews
Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disa...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Christy B
Imagine being sent off to a mental hospital because you did not obey your husband, because you thought your own thoughts and asked questions. Well, that was a reality at one point.

During the Civil War, Iris is sent to Sanibel Asylum for being just that type of wife. She is not a lunatic, she's just her own person with a mind of her own. As soon as she arrives, she tries to find a way out, a way to escape. However, things get complicated when she falls in love with Ambrose, a Confederate soldier...more
Hmm. Let me just say that I liked the premise, I was intrigued by the location (Sannibel Island), and was swayed by the reviews. This is a quick read with very short chapters. Some parts were great, but over all it felt like something was missing. It just didn't go very deep. I would have liked it to be more informative, more personal. The treatment for mental illness during the 1800's is fascinating. Tell me more. Something about the ending didn't sit right with me. It all seemed rather contriv...more
Kate Quinn
Sometimes it seems as if the only historical fiction is yet another retread about a Tudor Queen or Plantagenet princess - where are the little people and their stories? And here is "Blue Asylum," a passionate and poetic epic about a Southern wife and a battered soldier from the American Civil War; ordinary people embarking on a journey that can fairly be called Homeric. They meet not on some famous battlefield or picturesque white-columned plantation house, but at a madhouse: Ambrose a Confedera...more
It's never a good sign for a book when its main characters have to be told by minor characters how they should feel. This happens a few times in Kathy Hepinstall's "Blue Asylum", which I started out reading with high expectations. After all, how could you miss on a novel set in an insane asylum on Sanibel Island during the Civil War?

Unfortunately, those high expectations are dashed by flat, two-dimensional characters and stilted dialogue; as a result, the characters never really seem to come al...more
Amy S
I am now going to do the walk of shame and admit that I was in a bookstore, got completely sucked in by the gorgeous cover (it doesn't help that I love the ocean and blue is my favorite color) and paid TWENTY BUCKS for it. Willingly. I know, I know. What can I say.

Now I am really struggling with knowing how to rate this. This has pretty much never happened to me, seriously. I loved it and hated it.

So let me tell you what I loved first. Hepinstall is a lovely writer. She paints words and phrase...more
I didn't quite know what to expect from this book, but I certainly didn't think it would blow me away the way it did. Don't let the cover fool you, this isn't chick lit but literary fiction. It's a story that pulled me in right from the very first paragraph and didn't let go until the last page. I stayed up till the wee hours to finish it!

Those of you who regularly read my blog know that I like to read good fiction and non-fiction books that deal with mental illnesses. So when I read the synopsi...more
Iris Dunleavy stood up to her husband, a Virginia plantation owner, because he was cruel to the slaves. After strong-willed Iris ran away, she was captured and put on trial. She was convicted of madness and sent away to an asylum on Sanibel Island. Iris became especially close to another resident, Ambrose, who is haunted by memories from the Civil War. To calm himself, Ambrose concentrates on the color blue--blue sky, blue water, blue glass, blue clothes.

The book shows that wives were property o...more
The concept of this book held so much promise, but the execution fell way short for me. This felt more like a straight-up romance than anything else, with the rest of the storyline just kind of thrown in as a backdrop, interchangeable with any other. When I read historical fiction, I like to feel that it was well-researched enough that I have actually learned something once I've finished it, but with this book I did not get that at all. To me this was a missed opportunity to present some real in...more
If I’m poking around for something new to read and the words Civil War pop up, I move on. My interest in historical fiction from that period began and ended with Gone With The Wind. Then because I hearted the cover on Blue Asylum so much I disregarded my embargo and read on. Once again judging a book by its cover has led me to reading happiness. Shallowness has so paid off for me over the years!

Essentially Blue Asylum is the story of a young wife, Iris, with abolitionist beliefs married to a so...more
Who knew that such a small book could pack such an emotional punch? Not a word is wasted in Kathy Hepinstall's new novel following a plantation wife named Iris Dunleavy and her imprisonment in an asylum on a small isolated island. As the American Civil War rages on without them, the islands occupants spend their days almost idyllically.

But Iris is not insane. She is being punished for going against her husband's wishes. She is as much as a slave as those imprisoned on the plantation in her mind...more
jo mo

19th century: iris, a plantation owner's wife is sent away to an asylum to "cure" her of her madness. as soon as she's there, she already plans her escape. she meets a boy who becomes a friend. a man who becomes the object of her affections. a docter who is obsessed.

a terrific premise if you ask me. but a premise that did not quite live up to its potential. memorable nonetheless. just not a book you would ever think to read again. ever.

the book's narrative is split into several different v...more
ARC Giveaway & Book Review: When I was growing up, family members told stories about families in the South and elsewhere who used to commit rebellious young women to insane asylums or lock them in attics if they were too uppity or didn’t conform to society’s rules. These were not madwomen, at least not by today’s standards – they were just women who weren’t pliable and meek. Those stories horrified me because I knew I would be an uppity woman from the time I was an uppity young girl. So you...more
Blue Asylum a novel by Katy Hempinstall.

The premise of this book is what drew me to it and when I received my hard back copy in the post I was stunned by this beautiful book which the cover and artwork really caught my imagination and this is the reason I still love to read a physical book.

The story is set amid the mayhem of the civil war and plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. She is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to health. Iris knows that she is...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Nothing makes me more feminist smashy than reading historical fiction where women who dare to be themselves and not the obedient pet society wanted them to be are thanked for their strength by being sent to an insane asylum. Iris isn't even that radical (by modern standards); she does want a man to take care of her, but not her evil, slave-owning husband. Even though later in the story, I don't necessarily agree with all of Iris' decisions, I can't help sympathizing with her because I can see wh...more
Iris Dunleavy is different from the others at the Sanibel Insane Asylum, she's been convicted of madness but it's her husband's horrific acts that forced her to act in a way others thought was crazy. The Civil War rages on in the battle fields further north and in the mind of Ambrose Weller who has been driven to fits of madness by what he knows of war. Dr. Henry Cowell has dedicated himself to the recovery of his patients to their former selves. He lives in a cottage on the island with his wife...more
If a book has an asylum in it, I'm always game. But this one was a surprise; Blue Asylum has so much to offer.

In the time of the war between the South and the North, wife of a Southern slaveholder is sent to an asylum. Here she meets a cast of characters including the self-proclaimed crazy son of the psychiatrist, a woman that swallows small objects and a soldier that uses the colour blue to keep his war traumas at bay. But Iris doesn't believe she's mad; and there is only one thing on her mind....more
Barbara Mitchell
I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved Blue Asylum. I had never read anything by Kathy Hepinstall before but the premise of this novel attracted me to it so I entered a contest and won it. Thank heaven I did because this is undoubtedly going to be on my Top 10 list this year.

The story is about a woman named Iris Dunleavy. She is the daughter of a minister who grew up in Virginia, is courted by a visitor from further south, and marries him. The Civil War is going on, but so far she has f...more
‘Blue Asylum’ by Kathy Hephinstall is a short tale of wrongful imprisonment in an insane asylum. It was easy to get into the story and didn’t bog down in places. Set during the Civil War on Sanibel Island, a place well known for excellent seashell hunting, the main character, Iris and the son of the superintendent, Wendell, do collect shells several on the beach. But this is not a light and sunny story, it is one of guilty secrets buried so deep that they disturbed the peace of mind of the posse...more
Canadian Reader
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Alyce Rocco
If I were rating Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall anywhere but at Goodreads, I would give it 5 Stars. I really, really liked it; excellent, delightful, but "it was amazing" does not quite describe the short novel.

Back in the days when women were considered property, Iris Dunleavy was found insane and committed to Sanibel Asylum, by her husband. Sanibel is an upscale insane asylum run by a British psychiatrist. The novel is a page turner: will Iris escape? How? Will she be subjected to the "cold w...more
Diana S
Wow, What's a woman to do: when sent off to an insane asylum by a court of law. Just because she didn't agree with her husband's actions and stood up to him.
That's what happened to Iris Dunleavy, a plantation wife in Virginia during the Civil War. She was sent to Sanibel Asylum in Florida. And her husband didn't want her back until she becomes the mild-mannered and obedient wife she once was. Experiencing the close mindlessness of the times and the abuse towards women with Iris was horrifying. T...more
Diane S.
Set during the civil war, the wife of a slave owning plantation, is sentenced to the lunatic asylum on Sibella Island. There she meets many different characters, some sane some not, and Ambrose who is scarred by his own actions in the war. This novel is a quiet novel, almost ethereal in tone, because the reader learns what sent these people here in flashback and conversations from the characters instead of directly from the acts. Loved the doctor's son, a young boy who fears he himself in insane...more
I really wanted this book to work, but it didn't. Instead of being lyrical it was depressing. The characters needed to be complex, but they were incomplete. Which is sad, since the plot is very intriguing and had great possibilites. It needed to be longer to handle the scenario and more epic in length. But her prose is pretty and her settings are compelling. I'd like to read more by her if she matures in her writing.
This novel intrigued me because it is about a plantation wife from Virginia (where I live) during Civil War times whose husband ships her off unjustly to an insane asylum on Sanibel Island, Florida in the Gulf (where I long ago vacationed a couple times and loved) because she defies him and his cruel treatment of his slaves. In those days, a woman who didn't know her "place" had to be suffering from a mental defect. The heroine, Iris, is smart and well-educated, and her every thought upon arrivi...more
Lois Bouchard
One of the most poignant, amazing books I've read. We don't consider insanity a politically correct term (outside of legally insane) anymore, but it's interesting that it has pretty much always had the same definition: behavior that is far outside what is normal in society. In the mid 19th century, it would have been considered far outside the norm in society to run away with your slaves because your husband is a monster. People just didn't do that. Also, it would have been extremely easy for a...more
Tara Chevrestt
This book had me mumbling the same question throughout the entire reading of it..."Who's really the crazy one?"

It's not the heroine, Iris who tried to save a slave from being whipped, tried to save a baby and ran away with the entire population of slaves from her husband and their overseer...No, she was pretty amazing.

Blue Asylum is about an insane asylum on an island during the Civil war. This is a time when men could toss their wives in the looney bin for being a suffragette. And it seems, in...more
Zohar -
Blue Asy­lum by Kathy Hep­in­stall is a fic­tional book tak­ing place in an insane asy­lum dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War. The lines between insan­ity and san­ity are always blurred and this is espe­cially true dur­ing war time.

Dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War Iris Dun­leavy, wife of a Vir­ginia plan­ta­tion owner, was put on trial and found to be insane. Mrs. Dun­leavy was sent away to Sani­bel Asy­lum to return to her for­mer self of a com­pli­ant woman.

Con­fed­er­ate solider Ambrose Weller...more
I needed to be anywhere but in my own mind on the day I found this book at the library and the cover promised an entertaining diversion. The drawing even conveyed a wry amusement at how women once stood before the sea. The figure seemed to be engaged in a lively confrontation with somebody and I wanted to listen in.

This book turned out to be a great read. The plot was suspenseful, twisty, and well paced. The main character, Iris, was a plantation owner's wife who was judged to be insane for hav...more
I have never read anything by Kathy Hepinstall, but was happy to win a copy of her latest novel, Blue Asylum, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Set in an insane asylum in the Civil War south, I predicted a perfect summer beach chair read. And I was not wrong, but I was thrilled to discover that Hepinstall added a number of genius layers, elevating Blue Asylum beyond predictable historical fiction.

Iris Dunleavy, a seemingly proper Virginia plantation wife has been committed by a judge for some myst...more
Kagama-the Literaturevixen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Kathy Hepinstall was born in Odessa, Texas, and spent a large part of her childhood two hours from the Louisiana border, where most of her relatives
reside. She lives in Austin, Texas.
More about Kathy Hepinstall...
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“Her childhood had been magical, hours spent in ecstatic loneliness in the apple orchard, dreaming of foreign lands and wild adventures.. Everything was new, down to bird song and grass blades. By the time she had reached adulthood, the town around her was like a grandmother who had used up all her stories and now simply rocked on the porch. The same flowers, the same streets, year after year. She longed for someone more exotic. A prince. A pirate.” 13 likes
“That's what war was. A great motion and then a great stillness in which the winner crouches and the loser lies facing the sky.” 6 likes
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