My reading is still very much PhD-dominated at the moment, so apologies for the repetitive nature of my mini-reviews.
‘Sound the Alarm’: Patient Experience, Print Culture, and the American Asylum in the Nineteenth Century: Michelle Alison Spinelli (PhD dissertation)
This was a great dissertation. It was genuinely interesting to read as well as being rigorous in its scholarship. Spinelli does a good job of examining multiple sources for asylum narratives while always keeping the patient in mind.
The Circulation of the Insane: The Pauper Lunatic Experiences of the Garlands Asylum, 1862-1913: Cara Dobbing (PhD dissertation)
A very good dissertation with an excellent focus on patients and patient stories. A little repetitive in the various conclusions, due to the requirements of the dissertation, but very interesting in the other sections.
Bodies of Light: Sara Moss
A beautifully written novel. Moss has a subtle touch that doesn’t overdramatise the (many) bad things experienced by her characters, instead allowing darkness to exist between her well-crafted lines. I found the first half of the book more engaging than the second, likely because Ally’s responses to her mother’s abuse are realistic but difficult to read, but all of it appealing on the level of its language.
Dangerous Motherhood: Insanity and Childbirth in Victorian Britain: Hilary Marland
An excellent discussion of puerperal insanity within its Victorian context, with good use of patient stories to illustrate the broader historical context. Well-written and interesting throughout.
Mad Matters: A Critical Reader for Canadian Mad Studies: Brenda A. LeFrançois, Robert Menzies & Geoffrey Reaume (eds)
This book is overtly political in its purpose, and I do appreciate that it’s very upfront about that. That said, I can no more see myself in this book than I can in many medical treatises on mental health. That’s fine, except for the fact that I found it quite alienating to have an alternative lived experience of mental health and psychiatric treatment presented as the only—or at least the natural—one.
Unfortunate Folks: Essays on Mental Health Treatment, 1863-1992: Barbara Brookes & Jane Thomson (eds)
A good collection of essays covering a broad range of topics related to New Zealand asylums and mental health treatment practices over the 19th and 20th centuries.
Museums of Madness: The Social Organization of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century England: Andrew Scull
A seminal work on the subject, which has become a little dated over time. Still provides a good top level discussion of the movement from community care to asylums in the nineteenth century.
Sex and Seclusion, Class and Custody: Perspectives on Gender and Class in the History of British and Irish Psychiatry: Jonathan Andrews & Anne Digby (eds)
A good collection of essays discussing the intersections between class and sex in the context of 19th century asylums. Like most essay collections, it suffers a little from repetition as every contributor discusses similar pre-existing scholarship, but otherwise an interesting read.
Method in His Madness: Enacting Male Normativity in Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane, 1880-1910: Alex Crawley (PhD dissertation)
An interesting dissertation with an engaging and personable voice.
Neither Waif nor Stray: Home, Family and Belonging in the Victorian Children’s Institution, 1881-1914: Claudia Soares (PhD dissertation)
A thorough, well-argued and clearly written thesis, which was genuinely interesting to read.
Reading ‘Madness’: Gender and Difference in the Colonial Asylum in Victoria, Australia, 1848-1880s: Catharine Coleborne
I’ve previously read the PhD dissertation upon which this book was based and the book remains as thorough as the original, while being tighter in style.
The Biographer’s Tale: A.S. Byatt
I wanted to like this more. Perhaps I would have liked it more, had I not read Flaubert’s Parrot so recently and loved it so much. There is some lovely writing in here, but the content was just so dull to me—not so much when describing Phineas’s search initially, but everything that was supposedly written by Destry-Scholes. And I had no liking for Phineas to get me though the Destry-Scholes parts—and an active dislike for him by the end. Alas. I was expecting to love this.
The Confinement of the Insane: International Perspectives, 1800-1965: Roy Porter & David Wright (eds)
A geographically broad collection, this mostly concentrates on institutional history and quantitative discussion of patients, so not personally relevant to my research but undoubtedly of great interest to others!
Madness in the Family: Insanity and Institutions in the Australasian Colonial World, 1860-1914: Catharine Coleborne
Interesting, thorough, and clearly written, just as I’ve come to expect from any of Coleborne’s works.