Thank you to the author, Pen & Sword Publishing, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book!
I love all things history. I also have this weird obsession with the dark corners of history. Life in the Victorian Asylum: The World of Nineteenth-Century Mental Health Care by Mark Stevens is definitely piqued my interest. This nonfiction book is broken up into two parts: The Victorian Asylum Patient’s Handbook and the History of Victorian Asylums. The author goes into great detail about the layout of these asylums and even some misconceptions about mental health in this time period. Most would assume that mental health patients were tortured, as they were throughout most of history, but the Victorian Age did see some progress when it came to treating mental illness. The book then concludes with maps, diagrams, and photos from the time period.
I love historical nonfiction but this book missed the target. Maybe it is because I had assumed there would be more discussion about mental health. The first 70-75% of the book reads like an information leaflet. It is in the second person, addressing the reader as if they are the ones looking at the mental institution. The concept is unique but did not nail the execution. There is more information describing the look of the mental institution and servants than it did about mental illness. I was hoping for more stories about the patients and what exactly their treatment plan was at that time.
Even the second half didn’t quite hit the target for me. The author touches on different laws and acts that were made during the Victorian Era. Don’t get me wrong, there is quite a bit of research that went into this book, but just not the type of research I was expecting. Anyway, this book gets 2 out of 5 stars from me.