The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny
Published April 2012
Summary: Set in the late 16th century, this novel is the story of a young woman who has chosen a non-traditional path. Gabriella Mondini learned about medicine from her father and has been keeping up his practice in Venice since he disappeared many years ago. When the medical community in Venice tries to take away Gabriella’s right to practice medicine she sets out to find her father. The journey is arduous and, for the most part, unsuccessful. Along her trip Gabriella adds to her father’s book The Book of Madness and Cures.
Bechdel Test?: Absolutely passes. The main character is female and she has many discussions with others about her profession, medicine.
Weirdest part?: Spoiler Alert! During Gabriella’s journey she meets and falls in love with several men. One of the men ends up dead and on the dissection table in the next city she visits.
I wanted to love this book so much more than I actually did. While I appreciate the attempt to cross traditional gender boundaries, it was more than a little annoying that Dr. Mondini kept cross-dressing to be admitted to the various libraries. She asserts agency in the face of her mother’s traditional views and tries desperately to make her own way but is ultimately unsuccessful and ends up with a husband & baby. Maybe I was asking too much but I wanted Gabriella Mondini to gain her entrance to the Venetian Doctors’ Guild of her own accord, not because of her new husband’s presence.