Advanced reader copy received from the publisher (Amulet Books) via NetGalley.
Release date (UK): 1 October 2014.
The Cure For Dreaming is a young adult fantasy novel with a difference. It’s set in 1900, and examines the topic of women’s suffrage. I have to admit that it’s a subject I hadn’t really given much thought to, pretty much taking it for granted, but this book made a fantastic job of illustrating the struggles for women at the turn of the century. It made me think. It’s fast-paced and intelligent, and a novel I would definitely recommend to younger women.
The novel tells the story of Olivia Mead, a head-strong, seventeen-year-old girl living in a time of change for women in Oregon. She lives with her father, an over-bearing and downright creepy dentist, who is 100% anti-suffragist to the point where her mother was driven to walk out on him years before, leaving Olivia growing up in a stifling, pressured environment.
The story opens on her seventeenth birthday, when she is out at the theatre with her friends watching a hypnotist. The French hypnotist, Henri Reverie, is charming and sophisticated, and when she is called up on stage she immediately falls under his spell. Her father hears about how effective the hypnotism was, and spots an opportunity to mould his rebellious daughter into all that he thinks a good woman should be. He sees it as a way to ‘cure’ Olivia’s big dreams for an education and women’s rights, and so he brings the hypnotist, Henri, into their home.
But things don’t go quite to plan. Henri hypnotises Olivia to “see the world as it truly is”, and, instead of seeing the place that her father wants for her, the hypnotism instead opens her eyes to the horrors of the world. She sees women in cages at the Oregon Association Opposed To The Extension Of Suffrage To Women, and in her own father she sees an evil brute; “The brute’s red eyes gleamed bright and dangerous, and his skin went deathly pale and thin enough to reveal the jutting curves of his facial skeleton beneath his flesh.” Needless to say, it’s not pleasant. But she also sees the beauty in the world enhanced, and when she opens her eyes to Henri she sees “the most delightful creature upon which my eyes have ever feasted”.
Olivia struggles to come to terms with her new view of the world, and eventually returns to Henri, begging him to reverse the treatment. But as she becomes closer to him, she learns that he also has troubles of her own, and so the two come together to concoct a plan which can help them both.
The story moves at a great pace, there’s never a moment to be bored and there’s always a twist just around the corner. Cat Winters creates a wonderfully creepy, almost gothic atmosphere, peppered with references to the classic Dracula by Bram Stoker, which would have been relatively new and radical at the time. But whilst the book does incorporate some fantasy elements, it always feels grounded in reality. The historical setting has authenticity, down to the horrendous and fearsome dental techniques and the popularity and acclaim for magic and the occult which was common around that period.
I also loved the relationship which developed between Olivia and Henri. I consider myself quite hard to please when it comes to romance in books – I hate it when it’s overly cheesy and equally as much when I feel I can’t relate to the characters – but the balance of the fragile relationship which formed between the two of them was perfect. There was no contrived, happy-ever-after ending – the story finished on a bittersweet note, full of hope but still with some things left unsaid (which is often the best way). I really liked this book.
The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters – Book Trailer