Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

Iris Dunleavy is sent to an insane asylum by her husband. But she isn't insane. Iris hates life at the asylum almost as much as she hated her life at the Civil War threatened plantation. Iris quickly makes friends with Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier whose bouts of violent memories can only be calmed by the color blue. Iris battles the asylum doctor, asserting her sanity. The doctor refuses to listen to her female hysteria and grows angry at the woman who has disturbed his asylum. Iris knows she must escape the asylum. She befriends the doctor's son, who believes himself to be insane. Aided by him, Iris and Ambrose flee the asylum seeking a new start for themselves. Will their love restore their sanity?
This hauntingly beautiful novel brings love and sanity into question. This book questions what insanity really is. Is it not following social norms? Is it intense grief and remorse? Or believing untrue things?
Hepinstall's work is very vivid. I can see Ambrose, wanting to be sane, but believing he isn't. I can feel Iris' pain at a love lost. While I couldn't take my eyes off Iris and Ambrose, I enjoyed the peripheral drama being played out.
I now remember why I love Civil War novels. It provides such a heart wrenching backdrop. This book comes very highly recommended.
I received this book from NetGalley. 


  1. I loved Hepinstall's writing. I was excited to know this is not her first novel and I now want to read her other books. She brings the island to life with her description of the fauna and wildlife. As a matter of fact the island is like a character, with its azure sky and white sandy beaches against the backdrop of the razed land and horrors of the Civil War. This setting lures us into thinking that it can shield the patients from their illnesses.

    The asylum is populated by a great cast of characters that I truly liked. Dr. Cowell intrigued me as I was never quite sure what his reaction to things would be. I felt for Wendell, who thought he was also crazy but who suffered from loneliness and had no kids to play with. Iris is a strong character, wanting justice yet sometimes naive in how she metes it out. Ambrose is a gentle man broken from what happened during the war and his story is revealed only at the end. What happened to Iris is also revealed a little at a time and fully disclosed as the story heads to its climax.

  2. It really was a great book. I loved how she builds the story, up to the end!