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The Book of Madness and Cures

2.92  ·  Rating Details ·  2,337 Ratings  ·  596 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 ...more
Paperback, Uncorrected Bound Proof, 314 pages
Published 2012 by John Murray Publishers
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Feb 26, 2015 Tracey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histfic, 3-star
I received The Book of Madness and Cures through Netgalley for review – thanks to them and the publisher.

I have to say I was disappointed with this book. I didn't really have expectations, per se; I think I've commented before about how odd it is to go into most Kindle books as blindly as I do. I rarely read a book right after acquiring it, so opening it up some time after having read the description that prompted me to buy it (or, in this case, request it), divorced of even the cover image, is
Jan 26, 2012 Teresa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh Dear..

I could begin with the positives, however few there are...but that would just put off the inevitable, that is, I really didn't like this book.

Good, glad I got that out of the way. The premise was wonderful, everything was ticking my biblio boxes - the gorgeous cover, the Renaissance setting, a strong female character in a man's world, comparisons with Sarah Dunant and Tracy Chevalier - so where did it all go wrong? Well, the main problem for me was the extremely stilted prose (juxtapose
Sep 29, 2012 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh, this was so disappointing! I thought the premise was interesting, certainly subject matter which I have enjoyed reading in the past. Unfortunately, this was anything but enjoyable. The author's prose was wandering and convoluted, unpleasant to read at best. Gabriela was not interesting or even really likeable. I was curious as to what became of her father, but not enough to keep slogging through this. I made it to Chapter 17 before I couldn't stand torturing myself any longer.

A friend recen
Another book for the elusive shelf...

Gabriella Mondini is a female physician in Venice in the 16th century. The devoted student and assistant of her brilliant father for years she has become at least a tolerated presence in the physicians guild she and her father belong to and is even becoming well known particularly for her treatment of women. Over the years she and her father have devoted themselves to the creation of a book of diseases and their treatments and her father has been gone on a re
Scarlett Rains
I was so excited to finally receive The Book of Madness and Cures in the mail. It was a book I’d requested from the publisher and I was beside myself with excitement when it arrived. I love historical novels and, if you toss in a bit of medicinal lore sprinkled with early treatments for madness, you’ve got this clinician drooling! I couldn’t wait to read about the adventures of Gabriella Mondini: a 16th century Venetian physician determined to practice medicine during the Renaissance, when doing ...more
Sue Smith
Jun 16, 2012 Sue Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geez I really enjoyed this book. It just flowed so nicely and I really liked how she painted with words. It's such a pleasure to read words and see them in your imagination or feel them and truly understand their experience from that deep down sunken knowledge of what it feels like. It sounds easy to do but what appears to be done effortlessly, usually isn't. And it's such a treat when you find a book that does it. I think my favorite line in the book was when the main character - Gabriella - wa ...more
Now that I've read this book, I don't understand some statements I've seen from other readers here. I don't think the protagonist lost her way or her focus. I also don't think she lost herself as an independent woman and a physician either. I liked the ending very much. I thought it was the best possible resolution.
Where I got the book: e-ARC from NetGalley.

This was one of those lyrical novels where the words outshine the plot. Plot, indeed, was thin on the ground: Gabriella, a doctor of medicine in an era where women simply were not doctors, goes in search of her missing father. The search, naturally, takes her into all kinds of places and dangers.

Smells, touch, taste, sight: lots of detail here. Beautifully painted scenes using carefully chosen words. The scene where Gabriella watches a dissection only t
Justine Halligan
I wanted to love this book...I really did. Intrigue and drama all set in 16th century Venice - it should have been great. But...I was just plain bored by page 27. I just couldn't find the will to make myself keep reading any further. Sorry.

I think O'Melveny tries to depict how people would have thought, spoken and lived in 15th century Venice but her attempts at this were unconvincing for me. I just didn't believe that the author knew much about this place or time and so it was very hard to fee
Fascinating look at 16th century Italian woman physician; she seemed like more of a herbalist. Gabriella Mondini's father, a physician himself, behaves oddly and just decides to go wandering one day. He leaves his wife and daughter in Venetia [Venice]. After Gabriella is finally barred from the physicians' guild since she is a female with no mentor, she decides to trace out her father's journey, using as clues, letters he has written her from foreign parts these last ten years. She hopes to find ...more
Mary (BookHounds)
As something of an oddity, Gabriella has been trained by her father to be a physician and she has found a true calling where she can minister to other women during the 16th century. Unfortunately, she can no longer practice in male dominated Venice since her father has disappeared. The story follows Gabriella throughout Europe as she follows her father's letters to different countries and to his friend's homes. During her travels, she finds more knowledge about medicine and bi
I opened this without having no idea what to expect - the blurb sounded interesting, but while years ago, historical fiction at least made some pretense at recreating an era and its sensibilities, in recent times I saw way too many corny books with 21st century sensibilities transposed into historical fiction novels, making such just costume-pron...

However The Book of madness and Cures gets down into the gutters to a large extent and we see some realities of the 1590's (common childbirth deaths,
Aug 26, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This was a first reads book. I am sorry it took me so long to review; my husband died and, well, all that comes with that.
I was very excited to have won this book. But like others have commented upon, it really just fell flat. I loved the title...The Book of Madness and Cures...kind of tingly. But I found the characters one dimensional and not very believable. How convenient that Gabi just happens to speak every single language that she needs on her journey. And the story kind of just plodded al
Jaime Boler
Apr 26, 2012 Jaime Boler rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Author Who Lost Her Way

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny (Little, Brown and Company; 336 pages; $25.99)

Life in sixteenth-century Venetia is becoming tenuous, at least for women doctors, in Regina O'Melveny's uneven historical novel The Book of Madness and Cures. There are very few of them, and many look at them with contempt. Perhaps those who most scorn these physicians are male doctors. The true reason behind their disdain is the simple fact that they feel threatened by the
Jan 01, 2013 Kiersten rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so hilariously bad. And it's not just a matter of misplaced expectations; after reading the description, I knew it wasn't going to be great, but I'm a sucker for lush European settings, and the book promised to gallivant across Europe, and beyond. Basically I was hoping for a little escapism and some pretty scenery. Well, it turns out that I should have just picked up a Rick Steves guidebook. His writing's better, and truth be told, there is probably a lot more plot in Europe Throu ...more
While the flower-y language had me wondering, the knowledgeable telling of the travels around old Europe in the late 1500s of a devoted daughter seeking her long-absent father drew me into, and along, the difficult journey. Many topics were handled by the writer with ease and expertise including, the strict class structure, discrimination against females and certain religions, the conflict between proven home remedies and the medical establishment of the day, lost loves, sexual indiscretion, and ...more
David Maine
Mar 30, 2012 David Maine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strong book. Likely to appeal to fans of literary historical fiction, esp with strong female leads, such as The Birth of Venus, the books of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier, and the likes of Music and Silence by Rose Tremain. not quite up to that level, but close, and an engaging storyline that converts the narrator's search for her father into a naturally propulsive storyline. Some very moving moments, and the Renaissance milieu is well recreated as well. Good work all round.
Gabriella Mondini, a woman who practices medicine in 16th century Venice, was taught, encouraged, and mentored by her father. A renowned physician, he left Venice 10 years prior on a journey to research for his Book of Diseases. Now, gone for a decade, Gabriella has lost her privileges to practice medicine and treat patients. Upset at this and worried about her father, Gabriella and two servants set out on a trek across Europe to try to find him. Their trek is long, arduous, and crosses many bor ...more
Jan 09, 2012 Georgette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awesome
Gabriella is a woman practicing the forbidden(for a woman, in that time) art of medicine in 16th century Venice. She's been practicing the art under the tutelage and guidance of her dad, a respected physician, for years. She's also been working on a book of diseases and cures with him. However, her father leaves on a sudden, mysterious trip and stays gone for ten years. Finally, Gabriella can take no more, and sets off in pursuit of her missing father. All she's armed with are a cache of old let ...more
Dec 04, 2012 Claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really thought I'd found a winner with this one: a trip through Renaissance Europe, with a female doctor as narrator. I was looking forward to a lot of descriptions of different peoples and places, and some interesting medical lore. Instead I got a narrator who is so wrapped up in various handsome men that she meets, and her very clearly crazy and hard-to-love absent father, that she barely finds time to mention that the Black Forest is tree-filled and Holland has canals that freeze in winter. T ...more
3.5, actually.

When I got to the About the Author section at the end and learned that O'Melveny is primarily a poet, it all made sense. The prose was what kept me with this. There were absolutely stunning passages of description and just random musings (one on the magic of being awake and productive at night spoke to this nocturnal dweller). Her turns of phrase were evocative and lovely. And certainly the topic is fascinating: A lady doctor wanders Renaissance Europe and North Africa in search of
Interesting premise and some pretty turns of phrase with poetic descriptions but an overall sense of melancholia - ironic seeing most of the mentioned illnesses seemed to be regarding mental health (unless that was the point?) Enjoyed reading the stories behind the illnesses / cures (part of the book within the book) more than the actual story. This is unfortunate as the time period seems well researched, especially with regards to the various parts of Europe etc visited, the healing properites ...more
The book held such promise. Set initially in Venice, Italy during the Renaissance it describes the journeys of a young woman searching for her doctor father now missing for ten years. He had been on a quest to write a comprehensive book on diseases. Gabriella, the daughter, had been raised to read and be her fathers protege. Naturally at that time in history this was neither common nor safe.

The author did an interesting job describing places through out Europe and somewhat the state of medical
Jul 14, 2015 Kammie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I have wanted to read this for some time and am excited to have won it from First Reads!
Jun 25, 2012 Leona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction, Medicine
The Book of Madness and Cures

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O' Melveny
Gabriella Mondini is a doctor in Venice in 1590. She has decided to search for her father, also a doctor who left home 10 years ago to research for his book on maladies (madness). By taking his letters with her, she uses them as her map to find him. Letters from France, the Kingdom of Spain and Scotland are some places from where the letters were sent. The journey begins in Venetia, Venice, and leads the reader north
Linda Puente
Jul 01, 2013 Linda Puente rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways-recs
Doctoressa Gabriella Mondini is a young woman who defies societal norms by practicing medicine at a time when medical science is struggling to define itself. Beginning at a very tender age, she interns with her father, a respected member of the Medical Guild in Venice, and eventually attends university in Padua and becomes a doctor in her own right, but when her father takes an extended leave of absence to research his encyclopedia of illness, her right to practice medicine is threatened. She be ...more
Aug 27, 2013 Katy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing story of a female doctor in C16th Venice. Gabriella's father, who was supervising her as a student for the Council of Doctors, went off travelling 10 years ago to gather material for their book, and she was only allowed to treat other women in his absence, and then the council tell her she is no longer allowed to practice without him. His letters have become more and more sporadic as he sank further into melancholy, and his last letter told her that he wouldn't be coming back. She ...more
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this novel through a First Reads giveaway. On one level, I've read this book before. A journey through an old world that no longer exists, a headstrong hero who continues even when al hope is lost. However, This novel is so gorgeous in detail and atmosphere, I forgive it some of its cliches. I truly felt like a traveler through the world of the late 1500s with a woman doctor and her companions. The level of research that must have gone into the novel is stagge ...more
Sep 13, 2012 Christine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
Venice in 1590 was one of the more forward thinking cultures of Europe. Even so, Gabriella Mondini had to hide her ability as a physician because of her gender. Her father taught her the art of physick and she had looked forward to practicing with him. When he decided to go wandering throughout Europe to find more cures for his Book of Physick she was devastated to be left behind with her mother. As his correspondence became more and more sporadic she made the decision to follow his path and fin ...more
Sarah Hulcy
Sep 08, 2012 Sarah Hulcy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book is an excellent example of the reason why book lovers read. Because every once in a while we get to read a book this good.

If I didn't know better I'd almost believe Ms. O'Melveny discovered a previously unpublished diary written by a woman in 1500s Venice who trained with her father as a physician. This is the story of her journey to find her father who left Venice to seek more information to include in the book he is writing (with his
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Regina O'Melveny is a writer, assemblage artist, and teacher. Her poetry and prose have been anthologized and widely published in liteary magazines such as The Jacaranda Review, Yellow Silk, Poetry/LA, The Sun, The LA Weekly, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, and The Wild Duck Review. In 1995 she won first place in the John Foster West National Poetry Award Contest, judged by Marge Piercy. She has been aw ...more
More about Regina O'Melveny...

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“I've since come to believe that the world is populated by multitudes of women sitting at windows, inseparable from their surroundings. I myself spent many hours at a window on the Zattere, waiting for my father's return, waiting for my life to appear like one of those great ships that came into the harbor, broad sails filled with the wind of providence...I'd grown transparent as the glass through which I peered, dangerously invisible even to myself. It was then I knew I must set my life in motion or I would disappear.” 6 likes
“Beauty comes to us more readily on a full belly.” 5 likes
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