Cover image for The book of madness and cures
The book of madness and cures
Publication Information:
[New York] : Hachette Audio, p2012.
Physical Description:
9 sound discs (600 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact discs.
Added Author:
Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in 16th century Venice: a woman who practices medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has provided her entree to this all male profession, and inspired in her a shared mission to understand the secrets of the human body. Then her father disappears and Gabriella faces a crisis: she is no longer permitted to treat her patients, women who need her desperately, without her father's patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where and why he has gone. Following clues from his occasional enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses Switzerland, Germany and France, entering strange and forbidding cities. She travels to Scotland, the Netherlands, and finally to Morocco. In each new land she probes the mystery of her father's flight, and opens new mysteries of her own. Not just mysteries of ailments and treatments, but ultimate mysteries of mortality, love, and the timeless human spirit. The novel contains medical lore and sensuous, vivid details of Renaissance life.


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Dr. Gabriella Mondini, a strong-willed, young Venetian woman, has followed her father in the path of medicine. She possesses a singleminded passion for the art of physick, even though, in 1590, the male-dominated establishment is reluctant to accept a woman doctor. So when her father disappears on a mysterious journey, Gabriella's own status in the Venetian medical society is threatened. Her father has left clues--beautiful, thoughtful, sometimes torrid, and often enigmatic letters from his travels as he researches his vast encyclopedia, The Book of Diseases .

After ten years of missing his kindness, insight, and guidance, Gabriella decides to set off on a quest to find him--a daunting journey that will take her through great university cities, centers of medicine, and remote villages across Europe. Despite setbacks, wary strangers, and the menaces of the road, the young doctor bravely follows the clues to her lost father, all while taking notes on maladies and treating the ill to supplement her own work.

Gorgeous and brilliantly written, and filled with details about science, medicine, food, and madness, THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES is an unforgettable debut.

Author Notes

Regina O'Melveny's poetry has been published widely in literary journals, garnering several prizes. She grew up at the edge of pungent chaparral in La Mesa, California, and chose to enroll at Callison College--a school of International Studies at the University of the Pacific--almost solely based upon the fact that the second year would be spent in India. Thus began her many extended travels that would later inspire The Book of Madness and Cures, her first novel. She lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set during the Renaissance, O'Melveny's novel follows the efforts of Dr. Gabriella Mondini to locate her long-missing father (also a medical doctor) and, in the process, save her career in the male-dominated field of medicine. Determined to bring her father home to Venice, Gabriella embarks on a quest that will test her mettle and take her across Europe and North Africa. Katherine Kellgren provides strong narration, reading with an aristocratic tone, deftly handling foreign words and phrases, and providing a diverse range of voices and accents for the characters. Kellgren's reading of Gabriella's travels across lush lands, seas, lakes, and mountains will pull the listener into the narrative and this audio edition. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Poet O'Melveny's darkly whimsical first novel follows a 16th-century Venetian doctor as she travels across Europe in search of her father. Gabriella's physician father taught her his craft, and they practiced medicine together before he left Gabriella and her depressed, paranoid mother 10 years earlier, supposedly to gather material for his great project, The Book of Diseases. He has written letters over the years, but their frequency has dwindled; now, in 1590, he writes that he will not be returning. As a female doctor, she has been restricted to treating only women, but now the Guild of Physicians denies 30-year-old Gabriella her right to practice medicine at all. So with her loyal maidservant Olmina and Olmina's trusted husband Lorenzo, Gabriella bids a testy farewell to her harridan of a mother and departs Venetia in search of her father. She brings her medicine trunk, her father's letters and the pages from her father's book about mysterious ailments like solar madness and the malady of mirrors. She visits Padua, where her father's friend hints at her father's tendency toward madness. She passes as a man through villages in Bavaria, where most of the women have recently been burned as witches. She steals back some of her father's papers from a Bavarian professor. 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. She and Hamish are drawn to each other, although their romance may strike readers as lukewarm. Unaware that she is pregnant, she leaves without telling him, but he stalwartly follows her to Tangier until her search ends. Along the way Gabriella becomes less sure of the boundary between devotion and obsession. She faces dangers both from nature and men. There are deaths. There is sex. But mostly there is pretentious talk. O'Melveny writes with rococo flourish, but Gabriella's journey becomes a slog.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

In O'Melveny's innovative, accomplished debut, a female doctor's travels throughout Renaissance Europe create a striking historical tableau, but the personal connections she makes en route provide the emotional drive. In 1590, Gabriella Mondini loses her physicians' guild membership due to her mentor-father's longtime absence and leaves Venice to find him. His previous letters provide clues to his location and mental state, which appears to be deteriorating. With her devoted servants, she treks across many lands, sharing medical lore with other scholars, suffering occasional losses, and learning about herself. The established religion Protestant or Catholic and treatment of women vary from place to place. A red-haired Scottish doctor becomes a kindred spirit and more, while some German villages remain eerily absent of females following a massive witch hunt. During the journey's initial stops, Gabriella comes across as rather distant; midway through, however, a surprising revelation shakes up her reserve and kicks the narrative into high gear. O'Melveny draws her scenes with vivid immediacy, opening readers' eyes to the mysteries and wonders surrounding them during this transformative time. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The publisher is organizing a big publicity push for what it believes will be a breakout title for spring. It's a safe bet that the marketing effort, combined with the strong reviews the novel is bound to garner, will create plenty of reader interest.--Johnson, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist

Library Journal Review

The only woman practicing medicine in 16th-century Venice, Gabriella Mondini must hunt for her vanished father. "Superb." (LJ 3/1/12). (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.