The Darlings Of The Asylum by Noel O’Reilly is a compulsive historical novel that consumed me from the start.
Written in the first person enables the reader to become intimately acquainted with the lead character. We empathise with her feelings of frustration and applaud her bravery and guts.
The novel has two different time periods. As it opens, the reader is very concerned for the fate of whoever is viewing the action.
The tale is set in 1886. It was very much a male dominated society. Women were expected to acquiesce, being subservient to men. If you questioned a male, especially one in authority, life would not always be good for you. A new generation of women were rising up, those who knew what they wanted and were not afraid to say so. They wanted to be seen and heard, with their likes, dislikes and passions. The emerging modern woman risked incarceration in mental asylums, and once in, it was hard to get out.
The lead character was passionate about her art. This could be her undoing… or her saving grace. You must read to see what you think.
Lines between fact and fiction blur in the asylum. Even the modern reader questions what is real – or not.
The Darlings Of The Asylum was written in the Gothic tradition. Gloomy cells, dark corridors and manic behaviour create a dark atmosphere which was more than a little creepy. Rather reminiscent of the first Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre!
I was completely engrossed in the action, reading the book in mainly just one sitting – once started, I could not put it down. It is a compelling read but not one to be read alone in an old house!
I received a free copy from the publishers. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.