I started August with a historical fiction, and I decided to end the month with another. Summer has ended and Autumn has arrived quite dramatically here in the UK. It felt like a good time for Victorian, mystery The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts.
We are taken back to 1885. Where we awake with Lady Anne. Who is shocked to find herself upon a straw mattress, covered by a thin blanket, in a small cell like room. Far from the usual luxury of her family’s country estate. Anne believes she must have been kidnapped. In fact she has been committed to Bethlem Royal Hospital, an asylum, to receive treatment after the horrific death of her baby son.
Anne begins to receive treatment and is supported by hospital staff and family. More details and secrets are exposed as we see the story from different perspectives. These include Anne, her father, her husband Edgar, her lady’s maid Beatrix, and Dr Savage. A more dislikeable group of characters I don’t believe I have ever met. They are rude, selfish, misogynistic and lie all the time! They even lie in their own thoughts which only the reader is party to. Of course this meant the mystery and tension was built for me, because I never knew what to believe. Rather surreal technique though.
Rachel Florence Roberts is a new author for me. I have to acknowledge that Roberts has tried hard to research and use facts to help create the Victorian world her characters inhabit. Going as far as reading notes from a doctor of the period to base Dr Savages work on. I liked the setting and while we were in the asylum I totally believed in this world. Outside of the asylum though there were several times where words, phrases and objects were included which I didn’t think were appropriate for the time period. This jarred me out of the story. Fortunately the mystery, pace and shocking revelations were enough to keep me reading.
The Medea Complex was a quick and shocking read for me. You might enjoy it if you like psychological mysteries. Okay read.
Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Read any other books set in an asylum?
A new month means a new meme question for The Classics Club. I was slack on these in 2014 but I would really like to get back into doing them regularly in 2015. This month’s question is:
What about modern classics? Pick a book published since 2000 and say why you think it will be considered as a “classic” in the future. Contributed by Teresa.
When I first saw this month’s question I thought interesting but hard however when I sat down to write this post one book came to mind straight away; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. A British novel published in 2003 with an unusual and eye-catching title (which is actually a quote of Sherlock Holmes from one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells the tale of Christopher a young man with a behavioural disorder. Who is amazing at mathematics, obsessive about order and routine, and struggles to form and maintain relationships. Christopher is shaken from is obsessive routine with the murder of his neighbour’s dog as he goes out into the world to discover the truth. This is beautiful book about a fascinating character; that alone could be a reason for this to become a classic. It also I feel, like many classics do, portrays the society and culture of its time and discusses the universal issues of difference and exclusion.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been a best-selling novel read by adults and younger readers a like. It has been adapted into a highly successful play and there are plans to make it into a film too. Also in a BBC survey for World Book Night it was voted one of “the top five happy endings” with the industrious company of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. All of which I’ve read and are now classics.
What novel published since 2000 do you think will become a classic?
I decided in January to try to always have a classic novel or short story collection on the go, alongside one fiction and non-fiction. Starting as I mean to go on after finishing Shirley by Charlotte Brontë I picked up Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald.
Tender is the Night takes us to the beautiful south of France in the summer of 1925. Wealthy, American couple Dick and Nicole Diver, and their social clique are enjoying the sun, sea and beach from their villa on the French Riviera. The equilibrium is to be altered with the arrival of the young movie star Rosemary Hoyt and her mother. This new friendship will go on to reveal the cracks in the Divers’ friendships and even their own marriage. I love the 1920’s world of Fitzgerald’s novels; the clothes, parties and glamour while in this novel the beautiful French setting was an extra bonus.
While the setting is intoxicating I often find the society, outlook and opinions of the age unattractive and in turn so are the characters in Fitzgerald’s novels. In Tender is the Night Rosemary and many of the Divers’ other friends and family are over privileged, aloof, shallow and live with no thought of consequence. When we first meet the Divers they too come across like this however when you come to the middle of the novel we are taken back in time to when they first met. Nicole was in a mental illness institute and Dick a young doctor. Knowing the hardships they have been through and the love and need they once had for each other did make me soften to them.
Tender is the Night is the third novel I have read by F Scott Fitzgerald, the previous being The Great Gatsby and The Beautiful and the Damned. I find Fitzgerald’s writing to be detailed, eloquent, but quite meandering. Fitzgerald is certainly not a direct writer. Rather than this annoying me though I find this style adds to the precocious, aloof, and flamboyant mood of the age and setting. Again it particularly works in this novel because of the mind sets of the Divers. Dick is a man who is coming to think too much while Nicole has her mental illness to come to terms with. Again not sure this style would work for me in anything but a Fitzgerald novel.
Tender is the Night is a glitzy and gritty look into the lives of 1920’s American socialites in Europe. I recommend to those interested in the 1920’s and classic American literature. This is my 28th read off my Classics Club list. Okay read.
Have you read this? Or another of Fitzgerald’s novels?