I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
Published by Harry N. Abrams on October 14th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
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Also by this author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Uninvited: A Novel, The Steep & Thorny Way
Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl-a suffragist-in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It's 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia's father, concerned that she's headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she's able to see people's true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she's drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.
‘You will see the world the way it truly is. The roles of men and women will be clearer than they have ever been before. You will know whom to avoid.’
The Cure for Dreaming is set during the early 1900’s in Oregon where the fight women’s suffrage is really starting to gather steam. It won’t be until August 26th, 1920 when the 19th amendment to the Constitution becomes ratified but even at this point, women are determined to speak their mind. Olivia Mead is a modern girl with hopes and dreams of one day being able to wear pantaloons in public, of going to college and getting a job and of one day being able to vote for President. Her mother had these same hopes and left her with her father when she was just four years old to follow her dreams. Not wanting to be accused of being just like her mother, Olivia has kept her thoughts and feelings to herself, for the most part. When her father determines it’s his duty to cure her of her dreaming, he hires a hypnotist, Henri Reverie, to remove any thoughts or feelings that would be considered inappropriate for a lady to possess. Instead of doing what was intended, the hypnotist opens her mind to see the world exactly how it is, showing her the true monsters around us.
“She’s only a bird in a gilded cage…”
What I loved most about Cat Winters debut novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds was the interesting fusion of historical and supernatural elements. She uses this same technique in The Cure for Dreaming, however, it didn’t seem as fitting in this situation. After being hypnotized, Olivia is able to see the true ugliness of people. The mean-spirited and nastiness within causes them to be reflected in her eyes as legit monsters with fangs and claws. Often compared to the descriptions of her favorite book Dracula, suddenly she’s seeing these monsters in real life. The constant references to Dracula made it all seem like a strange coincidence and made it seem as if it was just a product of an overactive imagination. In addition to the monsters, she also begins to witness women throughout town literally fading into existence yet there are other women, those who are in support of the women’s suffrage movement, who shine brightly with their determination to have their voices be heard. I loved the message, but the supernatural elements made the evil villains feel like a caricature and essentially lessened the true strength of it for me.
What this atmospheric story does do extraordinary well is bring the 1900’s to life with a wonderful amount of detail. Cat Winters also incorporated various black and white photographs from the period with fantastic quotes as she did in her previous novel, which I loved. What I also loved, which was a surprise to me, was the romantic element. It was crafted slowly, there was a distinct lack of insta-love and didn’t get overly focused on at all. It was incredibly sweet and touching and I loved that it was all a part of her journey of self-discovery rather than a deterrent. I may not have loved this one as much as her debut, but there’s still something incredibly intriguing about the stories that Winters decides to tell and the way in which she brings them to life.