Skip to main content

Book Review and Giveaway: Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

During the Civil War, Iris Dunleavy is declared a lunatic and sent to the Sanibel Asylum to be cured by the renowned Dr. Cowell. The doctor has a reputation for restoring women like Iris back to good, obedient wives. Iris insists she is not insane. She just went against her husband and has been sent away. And when she realizes no one will listen to her side of the story, she decides she will escape.

In Blue Asylum, Kathy Hepinstall brings the Civil War era to life in an unusual setting. In addition to Iris, a Virginia plantation owner's wife, we get to know Dr. Cowell, whose relationships with his wife and son are quite strained. We also meet Ambrose, a war veteran with whom Iris soon falls in love. This complicates matters as she wants to run away, but doesn't want to leave him. Hepinstall develops many other interesting characters, most of whom are actually insane.

I really enjoyed this historical novel, particularly the characters Hepinstall brought to life. And I liked the way she walked the line between sanity and insanity, looking at those who may be considered insane and trying to understand their perspectives. I loved the doctor's son, Wendell, who was stuck on the island with his parents and always worrying that he was insane himself.

The historical aspects of the story were appealing as well, including the stories Ambrose and Iris revealed about their pasts, and how they ended up in the asylum. This isn't the first book I've read in which a female character is sent away merely because she is unwilling to go along with social conventions of the time. It's rather disturbing to realize that although this is fiction, things like this did actually happen to women in the past.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful, unique historical novel that would make an excellent choice for a book club.

My Rating: 4/5

Visit the author's website or blog
Visit the rest of the blog tour stops

This review was written based on an advanced reading copy of Blue Asylum that I received from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

The publisher has graciously offered a copy of Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall as a giveaway for one of my readers. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below. The giveaway ends at 10:00pm EDT on April 30, 2012. Per the publisher, this giveaway is open to US and Canada addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. The balance between sanity and insanity in some of these characters really intrigues me. Glad you enjoyed the book. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  2. A fantastic read here, the storyline is a winner in itself.

    cenya2 at hotmail dot com

  3. this sounds excellent! thank you for the contest!

  4. This is a pensive, almost delicately told tale of dreams and realities set in a "progressive" asylum for the insane during the Civil War years. Hepinstall has a gift for creating vivid and unusual characters; I felt here that her central character, Iris - an unjustly imprisoned wife - was overshadowed by some of her more interesting compatriots: a woman who compulsively swallows jewelry and other things, a troubled boy whose strongest bond is with nature; a war veteran tormented by his violent military experiences. The enclosed world of the asylum is created with great empathy through details both vivid and surreal. The end of the book surprised me as various inmates of Sanibel Island find they cannot escape their respective pasts even if they are free of the island itself.


Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Popular posts from this blog

Getting back to blogging

It seems that blogging has dropped to the bottom of my list for the past year, and was pretty low for the year or two prior to that. I love to read, and am continuing to do so, but as my regular readers know I haven't been around much. My last blog post was almost a year ago!!

There are many things that have taken me away from blogging. Work has been much more challenging and interesting these past few years, but that means I really don't want to get back on the computer when I get home at night - or on the weekends.

Family life has been more busy with kids having multiple activities in the evenings, leaving little time to just hang out and write about the books that I read.

I will admit to a bit of a Facebook addiction, which means way too much time spent scrolling through my newsfeed instead of doing something more productive. This is one of the things I'm working on and hoping that this will free up some time for getting back to the blog.

Overall, life is good. Work is …

Book Review: The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

Peter Byerly is distraught over the loss of his wife nine months ago. He has retreated to their cottage in the English countryside, hoping to return to his love of collecting and restoring rare books. But when he opens a book about Shakespeare forgeries and finds a Victorian watercolor of a woman who looks just like his wife, Peter is soon on a search for the origin of the painting and the truth about Shakespeare's real identity.

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett is a wonderful journey for anyone who loves books. It follows Peter's search in 1995, which turns into a bit of a thriller at times. But Lovett also takes the reader back in time a bit so we can learn the story of his relationship with his wife and how he came to be a bookseller. He does a beautiful job of expressing Peter's feelings about the rare books he encounters, and his feelings are contagious.

And then he takes us back even further to the history of one particular volume, whos…

Banned Books Week: Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

This is the end of Banned Books Week and unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of time to write about banned books this year. But I did want to include at least one post about it, so today I wanted to share one of the book series that it seems most people are surprised to find on the list: Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park.

According to Wikipedia:
The Junie B. Jones series came in at #71 on the American Library Association's list of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books from 2000-2009. Reasons cited are poor social values taught by the books and Junie B. Jones not being considered a good role model due to her mouthiness and bad spelling/grammar. This is an interesting example of a banned book. Many times there are serious, controversial topics featured in books that are challenged. Things like homosexuality, drugs, vulgar language, etc. You can actually understand why people may not want their children to read those books, and why they may challenge their inclusion in school libra…