Sunday 8 March 2020

Saving Lucia - Anna Vaught

How would it be if four lunatics went on a tremendous adventure, reshaping their pasts and futures as they went, including killing Mussolini? What if one of those people were a fascinating, forgotten aristocratic assassin and the others a fellow life co-patient, James Joyce's daughter Lucia, another the first psychoanalysis patient, known to history simply as 'Anna O,' and finally 19th Century Paris's Queen of the Hysterics, Blanche Wittmann? That would be extraordinary, wouldn't it? How would it all be possible? Because, as the assassin Lady Violet Gibson would tell you, those who are confined have the very best imaginations.

What did I think?

Bluemoose Books have decided to mark 2020 by only publishing novels written by women and Saving Lucia by Anna Vaught is the first of these.  What is so special about Saving Lucia is that the characters are based on real women from history, or rather forgotten from history until Anna Vaught became inspired by them.

I don't think I have ever read a book that has made me google so many things.  I have become fascinated by Lady Violet Gibson, an Irish women who made an assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini in Rome in 1926.  Instead of going to prison in Italy, she was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum in England along with Lucia Joyce, the daughter of Irish writer James Joyce.

Violet tells her story to Lucia and you feel like you're actually inside Violet's mind so it's quite hard to follow at times.  With thoughts jumping from one thing to another, as they often do in our brains, the writing has an almost dreamlike quality.  Anna Vaught's expressive and ethereal writing style gives her novel the feel of a literary classic.  I felt like I should be making notes in the margins and I was surprised when this was actually mentioned towards the end of the book.

Saving Lucia certainly gives the reader a few things to think about, namely how easily problematic women were carted off to lunatic asylums in the past when there was probably nothing wrong with their mental health.  I dread to even consider some of the 'treatments' they underwent and I feel quite angry on their behalf.  

Based on real women and real events, Saving Lucia is an exemplary novel and one that has continued to fascinate me long after I turned the final page.  It has the feel of a modern literary classic and should be carefully absorbed over time rather than devoured in one sitting.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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