The Gray Chamber is fictional story based upon true and atrocious events as its backbone. Blackwell Island in New York is the home of a mental hospital built to house patients potentially until their last breath. Edyth and her fortune left to her by her parents are under the guardianship of her uncle until she turns 25. She has no immediate intentions to conform to society’s expectations of a lady or enter a marriage that would strangle her free spirit. Believing her place in society as secure she enjoys activities that society deems eccentric for a woman to enjoy – fencing and riding her velocipede about town. Edyth’s happiness and security is threatened when her uncle finds a terrifying loophole in her parents will – her uncle has Edyth taken by force to live out her days in the insane asylum on Blackwell Island. As Edyth has estranged herself from high society will anyone even notice that she’s gone?
This book was a fast read for me – equal parts historical fiction, suspense, true crime and a dash of romance. I really do love novels with strong female characters that are eccentric and/or nonconforming of society’s standards women should apparently obey. Edyth’s character will capture the heart of those who love this type of character – and she is anything but weak. The horrific treatment of patients (even those not surrendered or forced into an asylum) by doctors and scientists alike is just abhorrent for so many different reasons. I would highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical fiction, Victorian era novels, social injustice books and with strong female characters. This book isn’t overly religious in my opinion – just that religion was more a part of daily life as well as the time period the book takes place in. This book is part of a series of novels based upon true crime: True Colors: Historical Stories of American Crime of which there are currently three other novels.
If you’re curious you can read Ten Days in a Mad-House published by female undercover news reporter Nellie Bly (it’s also a Kindle Unlimited title) and you can find at least some of her news articles online as well but they’re a little hard on the eyes to read (at least for me). The island itself is now known as Roosevelt Island and the hospital’s entrance – the Octagon, was refurbished as the lobby for high-end residential housing which you can visit. Another interesting article regarding historical psychology I stumbled upon is Civil Commitment in the United States written by Megan Testa, MD and Sara G. West, MD on the NCBI website. I would like to thank NetGalley and Barbour Publishing for providing me with a copy of The Gray Chamber to give an honest review of and experience – it is one that I thoroughly enjoyed.