Karen's Reviews > The Book of Madness and Cures

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny
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's review
Nov 12, 2011

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Read from November 18 to 25, 2011

An interesting look at the Renaissance times as far as a woman's role in life and in medicine. Gabriella Montini's father left her and her mother ten years ago in search of more diseases and cures for his Book of Diseases. As a doctor in 16th century Venice, he had taught his daughter everything he knew. With her own intelligence and feminine instincts, Gabriella had acquired a practice of her own. However, the Guild of Physicians now decides she can no longer practice because her father is not there to mentor her. So she takes the few letters he has written over the ten years and sets out to find him.

With her go her faithful servants, Olmina and Lorenz, husband and wife, who consider Gabriella as their own daughter. She has a much better relationship with them than she does her own mother, so leaving is not a big burden for her. They travel through Italy to Germany, Holland, and Scotland, where Gabriella meets Hamish Urquhart, a professor who takes a liking to the independent, stubborn woman. She returns his feelings, but remains compelled to search for her father, despite the growing awareness of his probable insanity. The search becomes as much one for Gabriella's identity as it is for her father. The trip continues to France, Portugal, and into northern Africa. It is interesting to read of the various reactions to Gabriella along the way. She is a "mere woman" in some places, must disguise herself as a man for protection in others, and is given due respect as a doctor in others.

Not exactly a page-turner, but interesting nonetheless. Not bad for a debut novel.


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