The book of madness and cures
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'MelvenyShe has gained success under the mentorship of her father, a famous physician, but he has been away for ten years, on a journey to collect material for a comprehensive Book of Diseases. His latest letter informs Gabriella that he does not intend to return. Without her father to sponsor her, the guild of physicians expels Gabriella, and she leaves Venice on a journey to find him. On the way, Gabriella meets with people who have seen her father, and she comes to realize that he may be slowly losing his mind. Renaissance Europe and northern Africa come to life in vivid detail, and the novel provides a fascinating insight into what it was like to be one of the few women physicians of the time. Women who practised medicine were often accused of witchcraft, and Gabriella runs into this danger at several stages of her journey, and she also is forced to travel in male disguise at times.
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Thank you! He has written letters over the years, but their frequency has dwindled; now, in , he writes that he will not be returning. She passes as a man through villages in Bavaria, where most of the women have recently been burned as witches. In Scotland she meets Hamish, a doctor who knew her father. He arranges for her to treat some patients, although for all the talk of medicine Gabriella is never shown doing much actual healing.
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Regina O'Melveny on THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES
Unfortunately, weak writing makes it just a missed opportunity. Set in , the story follows Dr. Gabriella Mondini, a Venetian who sets off to pursue her father after he refuses to come home from a year voyage across Europe to research a book on diseases. The fact that she waited a decade to chase down her father makes her urgency unintentionally absurd as she pursues her quest across Renaissance Europe. Tracing his letters through Germany, Scotland, Switzerland, and Morocco, she encounters mysteries and tragedies like a village that has lost its entire female population to a witch hunt, and a medical student who winds up publicly dissected after being robbed and murdered, but she never stops to get involved.
Written in the form of fictional dialogues from bibliophiles, it purports to outline a malady called bibliomania. Dibdin was trained and practiced as an Anglican clergyman. The founder of the Roxburghe Club of book lovers, unofficial librarian of the Spencer collection, and a flawed but prolific bibliographer, Dibdin was perhaps the genesis behind the bibliophilic neurosis that afflicted the British upper classes in the Romantic period. His Bibliomania; or Book Madness was first published in , as a series of dialogues which together comprised a kind of dramatized mock pathology, lavishly illustrated and, in the second edition, embellished with extensive footnotes on bibliography and the history of book collecting. The "symptoms" exhibited by the various characters in Dibdin's eccentric book, common enough amongst the affluent collectors of his acquaintance, included an obsession with uncut copies, fine paper or vellum pages, unique copies, first editions, black letter books, illustrated copies, association copies, and condemned or suppressed works. Bibliomania's imaginary conversations made a gentle mockery of Dibdin's aristocratic patrons and fellow collectors. The book was in fact well known.
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