Rummanah Aasi
 Like many people, I feel like I have been run over with the onslaught of political ads this election year. It is hard to remember that the right to vote, which we take for granted, was desperately fought for by many different people throughout history as demonstrated by Olivia Mead, the protagonist for Cat Winter's enthralling sophomore novel The Cure for Dreaming. Many thanks to Abrams and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: 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.

Review: Olivia Mead is a strong willed young women who thinks on her own and fully supports women's suffrage despite the growing opposition the topic in both her state of Oregon and in her own home. Her overbearing single father who rules the household with an iron first adamantly does not agree with Olivia and fears her 'rebellious' nature will further break down her family unit just like her selfish mother. After Olivia attends a pro-suffrage demonstration, her father hires handsome visiting hypnotist Henri Reverie to "teach her to accept the world the way it truly is…make her clearly understand the roles of men and women" -- and to squelch Livie's ability to argue. It was very hard to read this part of the book without your anger rising and wanting to jump inside the story and throat punch Olivia's father. Unfortunately, his view on women's rights are not in the minority.
  Luckily sympathetic and enigmatic Henri (who has his own reasons for taking the assignment) finds a loophole in Olivia's father's request, hypnotizing Olivia to see the way things are -- not accept them. Olivia now has the ability to discern peoples' true natures; for instance, unscrupulous men appear as vampires just like her favorite horror novel, Dracula. Her visions are as unsettling and surreal as nightmares, but I really liked how Olivia used these visions as her strengths rather than being scared of them. Winters does a great job in fluidly going back and forth with what is real and imaginary, which is appropriate of the story that features hypnotism and emotional manipulation.
  I also loved the inclusion of Dracula into the story, which at first glance doesn't really seem much of a connection until you begin to think about how the ideal women is described. The two main female characters of Dracula are discussed: the wanton Lucy who openly expresses her sexuality when she becomes a vampire and dies a gruesome death and the saintly, virginal, passive Mina who escapes the grasp of Dracula and evil. Olivia doesn't belong to either of these small boxes, but is constantly fighting against those like her father who want her to easily fit into labels. Along with Dracula, there are also other texts and famous quotes that provide the social and cultural context of the 1900s.
  I would definitely recommend Winter's book to anyone who believes historical fiction is boring. Winters combines the touch of paranormal along with historical facts to not only create an eerie environment, but an intriguing way to look at history.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is minor language, a scene of underage drinking, and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I can't wait to read this one Rummanah! I know her dad is going to piss me off to no end, but I like when a book can make me that angry, it means I'm thoroughly invested in the characters and story. Really lovely review!!!


  2. I am so glad you enjoyed this as well. I too loved the inclusion of Dracula and how Winters wove in the paranormal with the historical. An excellent read.


  3. Like you, I loved the intertextuality, the constant links with Mina and Lucy. I admired so many things about this book. It didn't quite pack the emotional punch of her debut, but it was still extraordinary.


  4. I so agree with you! I really enjoyed this one and yea, I can see the inclusion of Dracula. I so need to read her other books now.


  5. Oh great review! I knew I wanted to read this one. I loved the first book Cat Winters wrote. This one seems just as good or better. I haven't read Dracula, but know the story well enough. I know I'm going to like Olivia. I like characters that defy labels and break out of the box they are forced into.


  6. I just finished reading this one yesterday, Rummanah, and felt really guilty about taking the right to vote for granted ... especially since I don't bother exercising it unless it's for the federal election. *hangs head in shame* Oh, and Olivia's dad was awful!


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