Review: The Madness by Alison Rattle

Posted February 27, 2014 by chooseyabooks in reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Title: The Madness
Author: Alison Rattle
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 325
four-half-stars

16-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother's footsteps, and become a 'dipper', escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him - a passion which consumes her. As Marnie's infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy.

madness
Title
: The Madness
Author: Alison Rattle
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: March 6th 2014
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Format: Paperback
Source: Free copy for review from publisher
Also by this author: The Quietness

Goodreads DescriptionSixteen-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and become a ‘dipper’, escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him – a passion which consumes her.

As Marnie’s infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy. Set in the early Victorian era when propriety, modesty and repression were the rule, this is a taut psychological drama in which the breakdown of a young woman’s emotional state will have a devastating impact on all those around her.

Review: I really enjoyed Rattle’s historical YA debut, The Quietness, so was incredibly intrigued to her next offering, particularly as the subject matter and tagline implied this would be quite tense with Marnie shifting from infatuation to obsession for Noah.

The Madness is a compelling and affecting tale with a really strong sense of the historical period it is written in. Set in Clevedon, Marnie is the daughter of a dipper – someone who dips people (often rich women) in the sea and this practice was believed to restore health and cure ailments. When she meets Noah, a charismatic and handsome upper class teenager, the two begin a friendship which for Marnie signals an escape and love and for Noah is just a way to pass the summer. It could never end well really, could it?

I love books set by the coast and I do think the sea has this wonderful magic to it. In The Madness the sea is as much as a character as any human and Marnie’s love and close relationship with it was really well conveyed. Rattle’s depiction of the sea and its importance to the novel really made this book feel unique and stand on its own.

Another of the key strengths of The Madness is the way in which Rattle presents Marnie’s life and options. Marnie strikes me in many ways as a character in a Greek tragedy. Her mother is cold and sometimes cruel, at one stage she’s being pushed to consider an unsuitable older labourer, Eldon, due to her limp and the stigma of her childhood polio. Her isolation, rejection and clear issues around the identity and mystery of her father do lend some sympathy to Marnie, which is essential to avoid making her a caricature. All of this makes Noah’s insensitivity and lack of consideration for Marnie, in my opinion, very frustrating.   It also makes this a deeply sad story and I read it wishing I could reach in and change the trajectory of the characters. Despite Marnie’s humanity, she is an unnerving presence from the start and there are several foreboding moments that are quite chilling. Rattle’s characterisation of both Marnie and Noah was really strong and they jumped off the page.

The only part of the novel I wasn’t sure worked for me was the shift from third to first person perspective midway through the novel. I understood that this was to signal Marnie’s descent and show her as an unreliable  narrator, however it did pull me out at first and I personally felt that the change was unnecessary.

Taut, complex and emotive, The Madness is a fascinating read filled with great historical detail. I believe this should appeal to both fans of psychological thrillers and historical fiction.

 I received a free copy from Hot Key Books  for reviewing purposes. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I received the book.

four-half-stars

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