Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Blue Asylum” as Want to Read:
Blue Asylum
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Blue Asylum

by
3.61  ·  Rating details ·  4,867 Ratings  ·  713 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Dem
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Denise
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Christy B
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Kate Quinn
May 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Laura
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Amy S
Feb 01, 2012 rated it liked it
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
B.J.
Jun 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
☕Laura
Oct 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Cathy
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
During the Civil War Iris, the daughter of a minister, marries a Virginian plantation and slave owner. She leaves the safety of her family for the adventure of being the mistress of a plantation. Soon she finds her husband to be cruel and abusive. When Iris embarrasses him by doing what she feels is right he has her declared her insane and sent to an asylum on Florida's Sanibel Island. While at the asylum Iris' stay is affected by, Dr.Cowell, the superintendent, his son Wendell and Ambrose anoth ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, library
Fourteen miles off the coast of Florida, there sits an asylum for the insane. There our lady, Iris, is sent by court order after testimony by her husband after she blatantly oversteps her role as chatelaine of the plantation and shames him in front of society. We are also quickly introduced to Ambrose, a civil war veteran of stonewall's brigade, who suffers from PTSD, and Wendall, a boy on the cusp of becoming a young adult, who thinks a common act of self gratification is insanity. His love for ...more
Stacy
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
There's the man who fears walking because of his "heavy" feet. And the woman who swallows small objects such as buttons, coins, and engagement rings. Finally, there's the Civil War veteran tormented by battle images who sees things in shades of blue. These are Iris's fellow patients at the asylum. Unfortunately, Iris doesn't belong there; she was committed against her will by a vengeful husband.

The cruelty of the outside world is just as apparent in the asylum. Iris plots her escape, but also d
...more
Sara
3.5 Stars
Carol
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
‘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
Pamela Mclaren
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, vastly different book about a harsh time, harsh circumstances and yet the writing is such that I couldn't put it down. That is what Kathy Hepinstall has created in her story about a young woman who committed the ultimate sin: defying her husband and who was sent to a Florida island asylum for it, where she meets a young soldier, scarred not just from the war, but what he was forced to do to a friend. The story also tells of a young boy who quietly tries to figure out live, on an isl ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
jesse
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews, gritty
3.5/5

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
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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
Chelsea
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical, adult
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
Felice
May 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Canadian Reader
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: love-stories
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Connie
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
PopcornReads
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
Lauren
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not a horrible book, but not a good one either.
On the plus side, the writing was enchanting and the premise had me hooked; the location was interesting and (what few descriptions there were of) the treatment of mentally ill people at the time were intriguing.

However, the romance fell flat, the characters seemed apt to be swept away by a light breeze, and there was no reason for the emotions. It felt forced.
The descriptions, while beautiful, could've given me more of a sense of time and place.
...more
Alena
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Celine
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asylum
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
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Lynn
Jul 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Barb
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-ones
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
Alyce Rocco
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa Wolf
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: civil-war
Set during the Civil War, this historical novel tells the story of Iris Dunleavy, a young woman who somewhat blindly enters into a marriage with a plantation owner, only to realize that his cruelty is more than she can bear. When she attempts to expose his crimes, he instead has her declared insane and sends her away to an island asylum to be “cured” of her irrational defiance and delusions. While there, Iris meets Ambrose, a Confederate soldier haunted by his wartime experience. Iris and Ambros ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Did You Like the Ending? 3 22 Dec 16, 2014 01:33PM  
Gwinnett County P...: Blue Asylum 1 10 Mar 25, 2013 12:56PM  
Lady Leer Society: Blue Asylum 1 7 Mar 05, 2013 02:48PM  
Beyond Mr. Darcy:...: September 2012 Group Read: Blue Asylum 7 19 Sep 29, 2012 07:14PM  
  • The Rebel Wife
  • By the King's Design
  • Accidents of Providence
  • The Turning of Anne Merrick
  • The Secrets of Mary Bowser
  • Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
  • The Painted Bridge
  • The Notorious Mrs. Winston
  • A Proper Education for Girls
  • Rutherford Park (Rutherford Park #1)
  • In Need of a Good Wife
  • The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R.
  • Redfield Farm: A Novel of the Underground Railroad
  • The Glory Cloak: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton
  • Jarrettsville
  • The Sister Queens
  • The Flower Reader
  • Obedience
61173
Kathy Hepinstall grew up in Spring, Texas, near the Louisiana border. Her most recent book is The Book of Polly. Polly is based, in part, on Kathy’s own mother, who has as wicked a tongue as her fictional counterpart. Kathy now lives in Portland, Oregon.
More about Kathy Hepinstall...
“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.” 18 likes
“Those who wake at this hour feel a lonely separation from everyone but night birds and ghost crabs, never imagining the legion of kindred souls scattered in the darkness, who stare at ceilings and pace floors and look out windows and covet and worry and mourn.” 10 likes
More quotes…