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The Painted Bridge

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  954 ratings  ·  190 reviews
Set in Victorian England, as superstitions collide with a new psychological understanding, this novel tells a tale of self-discovery, secrets, and search for the truth in a world where the line between madness and sanity seems perilously fine.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 24th 2012 by Simon & Schuster Ome
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MaryannC.Book Fiend
Okay, after much considering, I decided I needed to give this a proper review and not just give it stars, I owe this book that much. This book is about Anna, a wife to a reverend set in the mid 1800's, who is tricked into going to an asylum for "hysterics", a term used by men to brand women during that time when they probably got out of hand. I love that word "hysterics"(sarcasm here!) Imagine, most of us women today would be in asylums if we had to live in those days. Anyhow, without giving up ...more
A beautiful cover, lovely endpapers, a few well-chosen words from Emily Dickinson, and then a striking opening scene.

A woman was suspended, upside-down, and a young man was taking her photograph. He was a doctor, and his hypothesis was that the picture he took of her face would reveal the secrets within her mind.

It’s not just striking, it’s very clever and its beautifully executed. My expectations were cleverly shifted and questions about what was really happening filled my head. I was entranced
Kate Mayfield
It would have been so easy for novelist Wendy Wallace to have beat us over the head with a jaw clenching, knuckle biting horror story of the Victorian asylum. In other hands, her story of Anna, incarcerated against her will into a private mental asylum just outside of London in 1859, might have conjured a Gothic tale of madness.

That is not the case. The story is subtly told and it is simply superb. There is cruelty, yes, but the balance between the mental and physical abuse has been measured in
Melissa Martin
This is a sad story of a young woman, Anna, who is married to Vincent. She was only married to the Vicar for a few weeks before he carts her off to the "Lake House." This is a mental asylum for women whose family and husbands can leave them. They can just say they are lunatics and carry on with their own lives.

Poor Anna gets dropped off after she comes back from trying to help at a charity. Vincent doesn't like this and carts her off. He has some secrets of his own as well.

These poor women are
3.5 stars

This review originally appeared at

This morning I read an article about a rape case, despite videotaped evidence, being dismissed based on an argument that boiled down to the victim’s being in no state of mind to consent, and therefore being incapable of not consenting. Such pronouncements are a reminder that women’s perceived sanity or validity of mind is so often something decided by men. The article bore chilling parallels with Wendy Wallace’s debut The Pa
Suzie Grogan
This is a terrific read. Wendy Wallace has researched the treatment of women's mental health in Victorian Britain thoroughly and has woven fact with fiction seamlessly to produce a novel that grabs you from the beginning. I literally didn't want to put this down, engrossed and horrified in equal measure as the story of Anna Palmer unfolds.

Many women in 21st century Britain would, by the standards of the time in which this novel is set, be seen as 'mad'. Depression and anxiety, post-natal depres
On the list of things I love; countryside, horses, forests and birdsong, sits books set in the Victorian era (J D Taylor's Kept and Derby Day, Fingersmith, Gillespie and I, The Sealed Letter etc etc). Was really pleased when I finally had a copy of this book in my hands. Despite the dreadful subject matter; treating mania and hysteria in Victorian England, this book was quite a gentle read. It concerned 24 year old Anna who was deposited in a private lunatic asylum by her 'man of the cloth' husb ...more
This is a book I would not have known about had a reading challenge not forced me to look into it. I'm glad I did. It's a well researched story about the workings of a Victorian English asylum for women. With a sympathetic lead character, it examines the cruel treatment of the helpless women charged into the care of an unfeeling hospice, often because they didn't conform to societal norms rather than any real cause.

While I wanted the book to have spent more time on the character of Catherine, t
A novel that neatly fits into a type of book I am addicted to – ‘Spunky Victorian Girl in Trouble’. The trouble in this case is that Anna Palmer’s husband has – against her knowledge and consent – installed her in a private asylum because he believes she is ‘hysterical’.

This is another of those books that I just ate. Pretty much everything in it was to my tastes – from the examination of the Hypocrisy of 19th century attitudes, to the female-centric plot, to the discussions on madness and sanity
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna Palmer nee Newlove is twenty four years old, still considered a newlywed, having married Vincent just seven months ago. Loving husband that he is, he has deemed her in need of solace and brought her to Lake House, a country retreat where her every move is watched and the door to her room is locked. When she calls from that locked room, pleading for help from anyone who can hear her Mr. Abse, the director of Lake House declares her hysterical.

Anna reveals a vision she's had, one that compell
This was a disturbing portrayal of "mental illness" in the Victorian era. It included a new tool used in aiding in the determination of mental illness, which is photography. I found the book informative and how even people who aren't suffering from an mental issue can behave like they do. I would still like an explanation for the behavior of Catherine Abse. I felt as though it was a basic view in the life of a single woman wrongly and ignorantly perceived as mentally unsound. There were other st ...more
‘The Painted Bridge’ is a very impressive first novel, set in the 1800’s it highlights the plight of women who found themselves in asylums for various reasons at the hands of their husbands and families, nothing is ever questioned, it is the word of the husband and another doctor on the basis of what the husband has told them. Anna, the quiet heroine of the story is a character you will care about as she faces more and more hurdles to leave Lake House, her husband, a man so unloving, uncaring an ...more
Lisa Agosti

Lizzie Button era capovolta. La testa, in giù, poggiava sul fondo; i piedi, infilati in stivaletti neri con le stringhe, si libravano sopra di lei. Tenendo l'occhio vicino al vetro smerigliato, Lucas St Clair inquadrò meglio il viso, muovendo la manopola di ottone avanti e indietro per mettere a fuoco la grana della pelle, le ciocche dei capelli corti che le scendevano sulla fronte. il viso era perplesso. Lucas era ormai allenato a leggere l'espressione degli occhi sotto la bocca, il c
If I had to say one thing about this book, it would be that it made me feel. I don't recall the last time I have been so terrified by the words of a novel; felt so violated and wronged in the character's place. At one point I almost considered putting it down because of the utter horror poor Anna had to endure. Those of you who have read the book know which point I'm speaking of exactly.

It took me awhile to warm up to Anna; at the beginning she was just so blind and whiny about her situation. S
The description on the book jacket drew me into this book, but once I started reading it, I found it difficult to stay interested. Somehow it seemed like there was not enough and too much going on at the same time. I wish the author would have focused her story more. Although everything in the narrative was related to the main character and her experiences, the pages spent on her husband back home, on the doctor experimenting with photography and on the odd family running the asylum took away fr ...more
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
It is 1859 when Anna Palmer is cruelly incarcerated against her will by her husband Vincent in a Victorian asylum near London named Lake House. This private asylum houses genteel women supposedly needing a rest and a cure, those who have delicate sensibilities. Having realised what has happened to her, and what Lake House actually is, Anna immediately sets about trying to prove there is nothing wrong with her and that she doesn’t belong there and should be allowed to leave immediately. She appea ...more
*Disclaimer: I received this copy through the Goodreads First Reads program*

A problem that I constantly had was that it was difficult to keep track of the characters. Some are introduced then seemingly forgotten until the author pulls them out of thin air. It gets confusing and I think there were a handful of characters that could have been removed and their roles given to another. It was also difficult to tell when flashbacks were occuring as there weren't any signs directly before. (view spoil
The perspective of photography is a clever medium to explore the lives of the characters from every angle in The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace.

The novel begins with an upside down image which immediately engages the mind with a strong sense that it's going to be manipulated in a original way. Here we are introduced to physician Lucca St. Clair, who is experimenting with the idea that photography can reveal a person's true mental state. The contrast between his gentle care of his patients and
Anna Palmer believes she is merely visiting friends of her husband when she arrives at Lake House. Instead, she is left behind, shepherded into a room and locked away. Her husband, Vincent, has had her committed although the patrons cushion the words by calling it a retreat for ladies. A retreat where the guests can’t leave. Whilst Mr Abse had no doubt that Anna is suffering from hysteria, Dr Lucas St. Clair is using the new technology of photography to find the truth in his patients' faces. Can ...more
2.5 stars: The author had a promising story, but the characters were not well developed. In the end I wasn't sure why she made the asylum keeper's daughter such an integral part of the story, or why Dr. St. Clair was made such a prominent character. I actually think it would have been better if the story would have been more closely focused on Dr. St. Clair and Anna and less on other minor characters. I have never heard of the idea of using pictures to diagnose mental disease, so it would have b ...more
Threasa Jenkins
I just finished reading The Painted Bridge today. I really enjoyed the book, but it was also sad in parts. It's the story of women being put into an asylum by their husbands or other family members. Most of them had nothing wrong with them, except their families didn't want to be bothered by them.

There were so many things that could have happened to Anna Palmer, the main character. I kept cheering for her throughout the book. I won't say what happened to her, so you'll just have to read the boo
A new author for me and a real find. This story has some of my favourite themes - set in Victorian England, a feisty female protagonist and an interesting story with an authentic feel to it. Onto Wendy Wallace's second novel now...
Maybe the best historical I've read this year!--and the year's only half gone. It was credible in every detail, I would almost believe that Wendy Wallace stepped from the 1850s into our time to relay the story. Only one small bit of dialog--maybe the length of a paragraph seemed to have modern wording.

I look forward to any future books by her.

I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that one detail that amused me greatly was that the man who ran the asylum had an apparently crazy daug
I stayed awake longer than intended last night/ early dawn ( 6 a.m.) reading the rest of this great historical fiction novel. Accuracy plus, my great aunt's diaries of her " rest" in such an institute mention the treatments ( torture) devices from that time. This book also bears the very harsh , but painful truths about the medical and psychological ignorance s of women's health ;or as they called it "Hysterics" back in the early centuries. The protagonist Anna did have some issues to work out , ...more
Having read and enjoyed one of Wendy Wallace's other books, I was pleased to see we'd be reading this for our book group. It's such a chilling premise: a Victorian wife is taken to an asylum against her will by her new husband and in the face of inhumane treatment keeps her wits about her (largely) in order to facilitate her escape and try to discover the reasons for her husband's actions. There is more to it than that, of course, and Anna also experiences a very cathartic journey of self-discov ...more
Mindy Conde
This was one of those books at the library that just kind of jumped out to me, pretty over, interesting title and inside blurb, you know the kind. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at what a good read it turned out to be. The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace tells the story of a young woman's struggle to maintain her sanity and her selfhood after her husband throws her into a "Country Retreat," which is essentially code for a mad-house/prison for unwanted women in the 1800's. I've read about the ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Just finished this and LOVED it! Best book since cee cee Honeycutt! ( one of. My all time favorites)! Extradainary peace of lititure!!!
I shan't linger over my choice of exciting vocabulary in this review, as the author clearly decided against doing just that in The Painted Bridge.

It lacks focus,a point around which to manipulate the story into something surprising or even around which to tie down the endless loose themes. Yes, there is the faint shadow of one but it is so underdeveloped that it seems unworthy of mention.

This tale really doesn't live up to its potential heavy premise. The possibilities were endless, but I had
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I grew up in Kent, in England, and later graduated in Media Studies from what was then Central London Polytechnic. I worked first as a photographer, then for many years as a feature writer, before turning to fiction.

I’ve written for the Times, the Times Educational Supplement, the Guardian, the Telegraph and many other magazines and newspapers.

My journalism, on Sudan and later on schools, led to
More about Wendy Wallace...
The Sacred River Daughter of Dust: Growing up an Outcast in the Desert of Sudan Oranges and Lemons: Life in an Inner City Primary School Magic for the Living Schools Within Schools: Human Scale Education in Practice

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