Author: Kathy Hepinstall
Date of Publication: April 10, 2012
Formats Available: Hardcover, Paperback, E-Book
Buy This Book: Amazon
Synopsis: Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman.
Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property. On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents--some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable.
Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris. The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment."
She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home? Blue Asylum is a vibrant, beautifully-imagined, absorbing story of the lines we all cross between sanity and madness. It is also the tale of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the undeniable call of freedom
Blue Asylum offered an interesting premise; I was intrigued by the idea and was excited to learn more about the conditions of asylums in the 1800's. While the novel was interesting enough I was disappointed to find weak character development and not nearly enough time spent on the practices of the asylum. I wanted to like this novel, but it ultimately fell flat.
While the idea held potential the characters just didn't pull it off. I felt disconnected from them, like I was watching from a distance, not living the story with them. I had a hard time relating to Iris and because of the constant jumping around from one character to another I was constantly getting different characters mixed up. The most interesting part of the novel was the use of the water treatment for the patients, which I wish the author had spent more time on.
The romance between Ambrose and Iris felt rushed and forced. Hardly any of the novel was spent on their interactions before the two escape together, making their romance feel instantaneous and a bit like an "insta-love". I wanted to like both of them but by the end of the novel I felt like I just didn't know either of them enough to really care about them or what happened to them.
Likewise an unsatisfying ending full of unanswered questions and forgotten characters I found myself disappointed with Blue Asylum. Even with good writing and an interesting premise the poor quality of the characters made this novel hard to get into. Most of the novel was spent with filler events that could have been spent fleshing out the characters.
At the end of the day I have a hard time recommending this novel. Fans of historical fiction may enjoy it but overall I would have to suggest skipping this one or at least waiting for the library to acquire a copy.