Genre: Civil War, Romance, Historical Fiction, 19th Century, Mental Illness
Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Iris Dunleavy is put on trial by her husband, convicted of madness, and sent to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a compliant Virginia plantation wife. But her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing on notions of cruelty and property. On this remote Florida island, Iris meets a wonderful collection of inmates in various states of sanity, including Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier haunted by war, whose dark eyes beckon to her. Can love in such a place be real? Can they escape, and will the war have left any way—any place—for them to make a life together?
Blue Asylum is a poignant, thought provoking, and addicting novel set in during the Civil War, taking place in an insane asylum on Sanibel Island. To say I wasn’t sure what this book held for me would be an understatement. I was sucked in by Kathy Hepinstall’s words and characters. She has a way of writing that just draws you in, little by little, and before you realize it, you are so invested in Iris Dunleavy’s story that you wish the story would go faster so you could see where Iris ends up, yet at the same time you want the story to linger so it never has to end.
Iris Dunleavy was just a woman who had her own thoughts and beliefs, but during the Civil War, in the succeeded South, women had no rights and Iris’ husband more than believed in that. Her belief that slaves should not be owned leads to her imprisonment on Sanibel Island. Her husband puts her on trial and she’s convicted of madness, no matter what she says.
I really enjoyed Iris’ experiences at the asylum and the people she met. Many of the inmates/patients that were at the asylum were a splendid concoction of personalities, ailments, and disillusions that really added to the story. The romance started when Iris met Ambrose, a former Confederate soldier who was at the asylum as a result of PTSD from his time in the Civil War. It was an interesting romance story that grew between the two characters during their time on Sanibel Island.
I appreciated the supporting characters in the story as well. The chef, Wendell, Mary, to name a few, helped the story along and gave it some depth.
It was a story that I couldn’t put down and will definitely read again! 4.5 stars
Happy page turning!