- The Madness, Alison Rattle
Rating: * * * *
Series: This is a stand alone novel.
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: 2014
‘Sixteen-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.’
‘The Madness’ is the first Alison Rattle novel I have read, and I would definitely read more of her work based on this. Her great strength is that she gets the balance of research exactly right: the novel, set in the Victorian Period, is very atmospheric and clearly well-researched, yet at the same time, it is not so bogged down in historical detail that it becomes at all dull. It is very clear when reading the novel that Alison Rattle has a passion for history, and I particularly enjoyed the fact that it is set in Clevedon, rather than a big city, as I knew absolutely nothing about ‘dippers’ or about that village in the Victorian era, and felt that I learned much about them through reading the novel.
‘The Madness’ is absolutely heartbreaking. It tells the story of Marnie, who is shunned by other villagers because she has been crippled from polio. She is isolated, and finally makes a friend in the upper class Noah, but it becomes clear that their relationship means something different to him than it does to her. Marnie’s stability begins to break down and it’s all because of the way she is treated by others. It’s deeply, deeply moving, and Marnie’s story reminded me of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, in the way that it is both devastating and beautiful.
Alison Rattle writes Marnie’s story in a manner which is truly, as the blurb of my copy states, ‘engrossing.’ I absolutely could not pull myself out of the book, and even though I have now finished it, I know Marnie’s story will stay with me for a long time, for Marnie’s is a story which touches the heart.