A haunting, hypnotic and disturbing read, with thought-provoking issues - ideal for book club discussion. This novel is set in a Victorian ‘retreat’ where women with socially unacceptable ‘hysterical’ behaviour such as grief, post-natal depression, or even those who have quarrelled with husbands, are brutally incarcerated, diagnosed and ‘treated’. An absorbing plot full of psychological and social drama.
‘Do you not see the slightly fixed stare? The tension of the muscles by the jaw? The face, alight with nervous energy?’ He was touching the photograph as he spoke, his fingers resting on the eyes, her cheeks, her lips. He smelled of pipe smoke and something musty and sweet that reminded her of apples stored over the winter. ‘These are the classic signs of hysteria, Mrs Palmer.’
She rose from the chair.
‘I was keeping still, for the camera. If I seem to stare, that’s why. And who would not be tense, in my situation? I am a prisoner here, Dr St. Clair. A prisoner who has committed no crime.’