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The Painted Bridge

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  1,698 ratings  ·  283 reviews
'I am more sane than I have ever been in my life. And yet, I look like a madwoman'

Behind a high stone wall on the outskirts of London lies Lake House, a private asylum for women. Tricked by her husband, Anna Palmer becomes its newest patient just weeks into her marriage.

Ravaged by the cruel treatments of the time, Anna struggles to prove her sanity, despite some surprising
Paperback, 386 pages
Published 2013 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published May 24th 2012)
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Maeve Stone The Painted bridge is the bridge that leads into or out of the insane asylum. It is in a painted picture of a scene of the grounds. It spikes the prot…moreThe Painted bridge is the bridge that leads into or out of the insane asylum. It is in a painted picture of a scene of the grounds. It spikes the protagonist's interest and when she tries to look for outside help to escape the asylum she tries to find the bridge. She sees it ethereally enveloped by parts of the mist that surround the grounds. It becomes a metaphor & focus for Anna's desire to escape. I gave up reading the book so I don't know if it plays a bigger role.(less)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,698 ratings  ·  283 reviews

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MaryannC. Book Freak
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
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 entranc
May 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
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
Kate Mayfield
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lucy Banks
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had no preconceptions of this book, as I'd not heard anything about it, nor was I familiar with the author. However, I thought it was really well-written and highly enjoyable. It was also a horrible insight into the treatment of women in mental asylums in Victorian times - I actually went and fact-checked after reading the book and was horrified to find that such practices existed!

Overall, it's a very poised, sensitively written book - and I'd certainly recommend it to others.
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
I was so touched by the beauty of the writing and the superb deliverance of a heavy-hearted topic. Wendy Wallace does an outstanding job with her depiction of women within the asylum system.....some warranted for their presence there and some certainly not. Ms Wallace does not lose the thread that interweaves through her well developed characters and draws us far deeper into the story. What is truly real and what is truly not? This will remain one of my favorites for a long time to come. I highl ...more
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
Apr 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
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
Diane S ☔
3.5 I have long had a fascination for the Victorian age, the hypocrisy behind the veneer of steadfast morality, and this book certainly provided much in the way of mistreatment and hypocrisy. The powerlessness of woman in this time period, where they could be sentenced or just committed to what was called a sanitarium, on a mans whim. The so called diagnosis of melancholia and hysteria, made to fit, whether it did or not. really liked the character of Anna, and the fact that despite everything s ...more
When I rate a book at 2 stars, it means it was just OK. This book was just barely that. Most all the other Goodreads reviewers are gushing over it, but I cannot.

At first I thought it was going to be an interesting take on an old story , but in the end there was nothing new about how women were treated in the Victorian era, and decisions made by men (their husbands) kept them captive in their homes or asylums. The characters were not very well developed, and there seemed to be a lot of time spent
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘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
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suzie Grogan
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such an interesting insight into Victorian psychology and the asylums that people of that time were put into. Anna is dumped into such a place by her husband for her hysteria and throughout the book she tries to convince them of her sanity. It is really well written and pulls you along that thin line between madness and sanity.
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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... ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It has taken me 7 years of owning this book before reading it. A few times in the past, I would pick it up off the shelf, skim through some of the pages, and then carefully put it back in its place. This weekend, due to me not buying books this year - not like I used to - I have finally finished it. So, after 7 years, was the wait worth it?

Well, overall, yes it was. This is historical fiction, dare I say almost historical chick lit. The story is one that has been visited before; a young Victoria
Blodeuedd Finland
Omg, poor woman. Men are such asshats!

Anna did not make the best of choices, but she just wanted to help. And for that, and cos he was embarrassed her husband sent her to an asylum! Because he does own her after all. And asylums in those days, well let's just say I would go insane there. Any sane human would go insane by their treatments.

I did wonder in the beginning, is she a bit mad after all? Who knows. Her husband sure kept saying it, but then you saw her and she just wanted to go home.

Joy R. C.
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Entertaining but I feel like there were so many opportunities with this story that simply weren't taken. Many things were totally unexplained and I found the narrative to be a little unclear sometimes, it was often difficult to figure out exactly what was happening. I enjoyed reading it but it has its problems. ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting, set in Victorian times, when I believe people, particularly women, could be put in an institution against their will.
The punishments dished out were completely intolerable, and this proved to be a very dark period of the book. However I am glad to have read it and feel many would not have survived this imprisonment.
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
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: w
*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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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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

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