What Da Cover Says: 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 I Says: One of the things I most love about this book is it’s back story, everything about how it came to be is a story in itself. Anna Vaught spotted the photo below (which I have stolen from Anna Vaught’s website) one day and soon discovered there was a story that needed telling, finding out there were still people alive who knew her feels a bit like destiny. As soon as I read about all that I was hooked. Check out more on her website HERE.
The woman is Lady Violet Gibson and she was the woman who tried to kill Mussolini way before anybody knew he was gonna be a monster. Her reward? The rest of her life in an Asylum, I wonder if the shooter was a man whether the punishment would have been as long. She doesn’t communicate with anybody whilst locked up until Lucia gets commited, Lucia is the daughter of the famous James Joyce and instantly they bond. Lady Gibson tells her story and also channels the voices of two women who helped shape the history of psychoanalysis; there is Anna O a feminist who was one of the main case studies in Studies on Hysteria by Breuer and Freud and there is Blanche Wittmann the “Queen of Hysterics” made famous in a painting by Brouillet. In the book these ladies go on an adventure, this reader was also sent on an adventure, I’d not heard of any of the ladies and spent a long time googling them, reading up on their lives and gazing at many photos.
As for the book itself, the writing style is quite unique, Violet hasn’t spoken to anybody for such a long time and she comes across as quite manic, lots of short sentences which stumble over each other and plenty of tangents (which she apologises for). Once Blanche starts being voiced Violet starts to calm down at the exact same time as the reader settles into the book and a balance is reached. Once the ladies leave on their adventure to change history, right wrongs and make up for missed opportunities you will know them intimately and will laugh with them and be outraged when things are unjust.
This book is short but feels like an epic, I’ve learnt loads and enjoyed every minute spent with this book.