A Madness So Discreet

A Madness So Discreet

Book - 2015
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Near the turn of the nineteenth century, Dr. Thornhollow helps teenaged Grace Mae escape from the Boston asylum where she was sent after becoming pregnant by rape, and takes her to Ohio where they put her intelligence and remarkable memory to use in trying to catch murderers.
Publisher: New York, NY : Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062320865
Branch Call Number: YAF MCGINNIS, MINDY
Characteristics: 376 pages ; 22 cm


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Jul 05, 2019

A fascinating read for mature young adults.
For those studying psychology, this book mentions the pseudoscience of phrenology, Phineas Gage, asylum, and the distinguishment between those sane and insane.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly for its dark suspense and components of mystery and murder. After finishing the novel, I researched about the Ridge which the Ohio asylum from the book is depicted. A page-turner!

Jan 18, 2019

Not as powerful as The Female of the Species, but still a good, solid story. And a gritty one. Rape, incest, physical abuse, mental abuse, serial killers, suicide, pretty much everything that will make you feel uncomfortable or depressed is in this book. BUT it does all serve the narrative. If you didn't know, mental health in the 1800s was essentially torture. And given the main character is a mental ward patient (and female) in the 1800s, she and her cohorts are essentially powerless and horrible horrible things happen.

The silver lining is that Grace does heal. Not in the sappy Hallmark channel way, but in a way that feels very real (in phases, not in a linear progression, etc.) and more for the benefit of the world around her. Her healing aids other characters, which makes it....not exactly a warm, fuzzy tale....but knowing it's not gratuitous pain you're reading may help you get through it.

I listened to this one on audiobook, and the narrator was excellent. Each character was fully brought to life, to that point where I forgot it was just one person speaking. I love when that happens!

Rest assured the ending has more good than bad in it, and there are some amazingly fierce characters and moments. The story definitely carries a thread of what The Female of the Species focuses on- that women are disenfranchised and suppressed by a patriarchal society (doubly true in 1800s America) but can challenge, or subvert, some of that when they band together with little rebellions. This book, primarily through the male protagonist, also had something to say about the concept of insanity and mental illness (when is it illness, and when is it "just a different perspective"- again, especially poignant in the 1800s when nearly anything against the accepted norm could be taken for madness).

I do recommend it, grits and all, to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, dark journeys, redemption/revenge stories, characters you can get behind even if they aren't compassionate, and stories with real emotional weight.

May 21, 2018

Insane asylum, late 1800s, Boston, as seen through the eyes of an inmate who is troubled, yet not insane. She escapes and makes a new life for herself through a Sherlock Holmes type character, looking for his Watson. I know this book is not for everyone, as evidenced by the wide disparity in reviews and ratings, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This novel is part asylum, part crime solving, and part murder trial. It does feel strange putting those three types of storylines together, but here, they make sense. I almost wish McGinnis made this a trilogy- with each book getting its own focus as Grace Mae recovers from her ordeal. I got the feeling that there wasn't enough in each section- not enough of the asylum, of the detective work, and a very rushed trial at the end without much detail. I would also like to see more of Grace and the Doctor in the future, of them solving crimes and a possible romance forming between them. As it stands, there is no romance in this book, which is in itself refreshing, yet it still came across as wanting, probably because as YA readers we're so used to romance being shoehorned into every story, even where it doesn't belong.
This book isn't for the faint of heart- it is dark and deals with incest, violence and murder- so reader, beware. That being said, Grace is a strong-willed, brave, intelligent and driven main character, the likes of which you don't see very often. She's the one who makes the novel work. If Grace had been meek and mild, the story would not have been believable and she probably wouldn't have made it out of the asylum to begin with.
This certainly isn't a story to raise your spirits, but it is haunting, dark, intelligent, and engaging- something you really need to be in the mood for before diving in.

Sep 30, 2017

SPOILER WARNING! Do NOT continue reading if you don't want this book to be spoiled for you.


I liked the concept of this book -- a "mad" girl who escapes a horrible asylum with the help of a doctor, and becomes his assistant in solving murder cases. And it was excellent and well written for most of the book. Where it started to go south was when Grace found and dispatched of the serial killer on her own. Of course the conclusion can only be rapid from that point, but to cram a large part of the story line -- Grace's father's fate -- into the last few pages degraded the quality of writing and plot.

Speaking of the trial, it was improbable that the Senator would be convicted of the murders the serial killer was responsible for when there was little if any evidence (as is repeatedly said by Thornhollow) connecting him to them. So how was the trial was given the go-ahead? It's also ironic that the word of a mad girl turns the tide of the trial to convicting the Senator of the murders when Grace later tells him that nobody would believe someone who was declared insane (as the Senator is by the word of Thornhollow). Next, I'm not entirely happy that the murders of another were pinned on an innocent (in this regard) man. Certainly he was guilty for abuse and rape; with the number of people Grace found that he did it to, that could have resulted in a trial in and of itself.

Another issue the book has is inconsistent morality, which I think the author made a point of as a dilemma with some of her characters, but which also played out in other ways. For e.g., Nell taking "revenge" on her beau by sleeping with and infecting the rest of his male family members with a fatal disease, and the nurse and girls agreeing with her actions; there is no counterpoint to it, even though what Nell did was terrible -- we would react (and rightly so) less favourably if it was a man who did that. Other examples: the serial killer being good in some ways (by treating people for their illnesses for free) but obviously bad in others (murdering and raping women); Grace removing herself emotionally from the situation so she could murder the serial killer, just as her father did when molesting her. I think what bothers me is that the consequences do not match up with the actions of the character, or they didn't understand the consequences when they should have.

Couple last notes. With the content, this book is obviously for an older audience. Second, the way the author left the ending makes me think there could be a follow-up book.

Jun 17, 2017

Great read! For mature young adults and adults alike. I enjoyed the content and the story. Am looking forward to reading more from this author.

May 07, 2017

Loved this book! Does not read like a Young Adult book at all. Content is definitely for older kids. While reading this book, had to look up insane asylums in the 1800's as well as treatment of patients. Interesting and intriguing read.

Jan 19, 2017

This was such a fascinating read. I found the subject matter wonderful, the whole plot line, setting and characters were different and abnormal for YA which was refreshing. It had a dark subject matter and was hard to get into at first but it was honest and interesting and unique. Quite good and worth a read.

ArapahoeLesley Nov 23, 2016

I really liked McGinnis' other books and she's a great writer. Her style is great and to read her feels natural, not forced at all like a lot of ya but this book just didn't do it for me. Starting off dark harsh and brutal yet compelling, this story becomes one of generic crime solving and convenient revenge. The characters are great though, especially string which is why this book gets 3 stars.

CMLReads_Kristin May 20, 2016

I loved SOOOOO many things about this book: the historical description of women's issues and insane asylums; the strong, complex, and flawed characters; and the murder mystery. Very well done...and with an author's note about basis for the Ohio asylum in which the story was set. Good on audio.

AuntieAnne Jan 15, 2016

Excellent, excellent book. I loved it so much that I am buying the book to add to my permanent library. A real eye-opener as to how "mental health issues" were once dealt with.


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Jul 05, 2019

bumblebeeboo thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

May 21, 2018

RebelBelle13 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Jun 17, 2017

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May 28, 2017

aformerhiro thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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