Mad Hatter

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Member Reviews

From the corners of this book comes a melody so delicate that it might have been simply an inner thought, a little surreptitious fact, a touch of realism and the almost profound flow of immaculate writing. The Mad Hatter's warm content promises a world against vanity and a barrier against superstition, even though its context is an open-door for the hunger of both. There is a great deal to be read and felt - Hadi Atallah, author of 'Rosemary Bluebell.'
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*Many thank to Amanda Hale, Guernica Editions and Netgalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
This novel took me a on reading journey that was as delightful as it can be for a reader, though there are no delights in the Mad Hatter itself.
I requested this book after reading that it tells a story that is linked to the Regulation 18B, introduced at the beginning of WW2, under which anyone who expressed any form of sympathy towards fascist ideas or was of German or Italian origin, was detained for a certain period in different locations across Great Britain. Also, all rights regarding habeas corpus were suspended. I had a vague idea how the 18B influenced ordinary people, so I thought this book might be interesting. It turned out to be much, much more than just interesting.
The novel revolves around Christopher Brooke, the hatter, who well before the war got involved with the Mosley circle, and who during the time of his internment shifted his sympathies towards Hitler. His ideas ruin his life and shatter the lives of his wife, Cynthia, and children.
Apart from Brooke's story, Ms Hale describes the war times in Great Britain and the post-war austerity, and I believe there are not many novels that manage to capture the atmosphere of those days so perfectly. 
The story of a gradual downfall of a man who had it all: a beautiful wife, lovely children, wealth and position in the society, and who eventually loses it all, is truly depressing, however, the writing is exquisite and I never thought of not finishing this novel. I know it will stay with me for a very long time ...
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This was a fabulous novel, just splendid historical fiction. The couple, Christopher and Cynthia Brooke, were often infuriating to me: stubborn, cold, aloof and a bit snobbish, and when the warm and fuzzy feelings Christopher had for fascism were revealed, I was wanting to scream. Beautiful writing about a horrible time, combining dangerous religious mania, fascism and mental illness which combine to devastate a family. A great book, read it if you enjoy historical fiction. This one will stay with me for quite a time.
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Christopher Brooke was a man of privilege. He was director of Brooke Hats, his father's manufactory. He was handsome, charming and an accomplished ballroom dancer. Cynthia Blackwell's parents discouraged their union but Cynthia felt it was her "birthright" to marry Christopher. Could he just abandon his "bloody politics"? With the outbreak of war, Britain instituted Defense Regulation 18B:

"If the Secretary of State has reasonable cause to believe any person to be of hostile origin or association or to have been recently concerned in acts prejudicial to the public safety or the defense of the realm...", said individual(s) could be detained for an indefinite period of time without charge or trial. Christopher Brooke, a pacifist, was detained.

War is hell on the homefront...just ask Cynthia Brooke. Upon Christopher's arrest, her family was shunned. Her desire and longing for friendship was fulfilled when she hired Mary Byrne as housekeeper. Mary, newly arrived from Ireland, crossed "the channel" wanting "a man in my bed to keep me warm, a good dinner in my belly and my own babies to hold." For now, Cynthia and Mary were "wartime friends". Neither had anyone else to turn to.

Christopher's internment wrecked havoc on his life. He was moved from camp to camp, "from dark cell to bright cell...until he [lost] all sense of placement..." The hoaxes were terrible. "Pack your bags. You're going home today". Not happening. How do Christopher's children fare? Their behavior seemed strange. They often gathered, holding hands in a "Magic Circle". Cynthia tried to hold it together but was often "shamed" in front of her children by family members.

"Mad Hatter" by Amanda Hale is a work of historical fiction that describes British internment during the Second World War. Freedoms could instantly be curtailed. Pacifists perhaps were housed with enemy aliens. There was no recourse. Family members traveled an emotional roller coaster. What will post-war life be like for Christopher and Cynthia Brooke? A very enlightening, excellent read.

Thank you Guernica Editions Inc. and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Mad Hatter".
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This is the second time I am writing this review as I must have hit the wrong button when trying to send my first review as it has disappeared; I hope I remember what I said. This is why I used to write my reviews on paper first - curses for trying to save a tree!


Mad Hatter by Amanda Hale was an interesting but sometimes difficult read. I am sat here now trying to reconcile the fact that this novel is based on real people. It was not until I finished reading it that I discovered the author's relationship to the subject. I wonder how it would have colored my interpretation of the book had I been aware of that fact before I started reading it.

It took me a bit longer to read Mad Hatter (several days) as there is a lot to process. This is a story filled with sadness and regret fraught with misunderstandings and if onlys. 

There are a few different narrators here. In the book description one is noted as being a 15 month old baby but what if doesn't say is that she starts narrating about 10 years before she is born! It is a bit uncomfortable (and scientifically impossible) but I think I get what the author is trying to accomplish. It does take some getting used to though. 

The author's note at the back of the book explains she spent quite a bit of time researching and writing this book. It can't have been an easy journey and it is brave of her to share it with us.

(I am very sorry I lost the first review as I am sure I have forgotten some key points I had originally made and I feel it was expressed much more competently but it is quite late and my frustration is high. I am nervous I will lose it again, so crossing my fingers ...)
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