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The Book of Madness and Cures    by Regina O'Melveny order for
Book of Madness and Cures
by Regina O'Melveny
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

Regina O'Melveny's debut novel takes readers from sixteenth-century Venice across Europe as Gabriella Mondini desperately searches for her father. Dr. Mondini left his home ten years ago in order to do research for a medical book he was writing. Although Gabriella worked as his apprentice, he refused to take her with him. Now that he it seems he will never return to Venice, The Council of the Guild of Physicians has banned her from practicing medicine.

After his departure from Venice, Dr. Mondini kept in touch with daughter via long and contemplative letters. But as the years progressed, his letters became less frequent and eventually ceased to arrive. Unable to practice medicine, Gabriella decides to embark on a journey to find her father using his letters as a compass. Accompanied by two devoted servants, Gabriella sets off into the unknown vowing not to return without her father.

As Gabriella begins her ardent search for her father, she becomes increasingly frustrated as each possible lead results in a dead end. Everyone mentioned in Dr. Mondini's letters claims not to have seen the doctor in years. However, one thing remains consistent among those who has encountered the doctor. Everyone expresses concern over his bizarre emotional state. Gabriella, who is aware of the rumored mental illness in her father's family, begins to wonder if he ever intended to return home when he left ten years before.

The Book of Madness and Cures contains fascinating information for anyone interested in medical history, especially mental illness in the sixteenth century. However, I didn't find Gabriella's journey across Europe very engaging. I began to lose interest as she encountered one disappointment after another (especially since the outcome is fairly obvious to the astute reader), but was still emotionally invested in her determination to discover who her father really was. Though I was disappointed with the ending, I appreciated Gabriella's unwavering devotion to finding her father.

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