Cover Image: Where Madness Lies

Where Madness Lies

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Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True
Rating  4.25/ 5 Stars 
Published By Top Hat Books
Published On 1st of February 2021


Thank you to Netgalley, Top Hat Books, and Sylvia True for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! 

Where Madness Lies is a beautiful and important book about a subject often forgotten about in historical fiction - especially the area of The Holocaust and World War II. Having a focus on eugenics, the sterilization and euthanasia of those mentally ill or otherwise not meeting the “wanted traits” to pass on to future German generations, this area of history is just another one of the darker parts of the Holocaust - equally important to the other previously discussed in historical fiction. 

We follow 2 timelines - connected by this dark act - 1934 and 1984. Rigmor and Inga are the daughters of wealthy Jewish parents. Rigmor deals with mental illness and Inga helps take care of her. When the Nazis rise to power, Rigmor becomes a target of the eugenics movement. In 1984, Inga’s granddaughter Sabine was admitted into a psych hospital in the US. Rigmor’s story has never been told and it is now that the truth about the past comes to light. 

The writing in this book is wonderful and with the story being equally as compelling, it was a fast and emotional read. The stories are well developed and keep you reading. It is emotional, you will cry!
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This is a difficult book to review because how can you say you’ve “enjoyed” a book about mental illness, eugenics, Nazi hatred, ignorance… And yet the book is somehow beautiful. It is heart warming and reassuring and incredibly well written. Ms True has said it is based on her family history and that did give it an additional edge. Thinking even part of this might be “real” - not the eugenics or murder as we all know that is too real - while being written by a descendent is heart breaking.

Sabine goes into a mental hospital in 1980’s America and this prompts a visit from her grandmother. The grandmother, Inga, then has her story told and the two timeframes run in parallel. It is very easy to follow and the two stories mesh well. Inga had a sister who was in a psychiatric hospital during World War II and she and a doctor, Arnold, are dedicated to her care. The story unfolds slowly and at all times we are clear who is who. The ending is satisfying and somehow enriching.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for depth and characterisation and damn good storytelling - with an edge of pain throughout. 

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review
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I adored this book. 

The dual narratives create a compelling story, their parallels and differences playing out to create a story I couldn't put down.

Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression in 1980s America, triggers an opportunity for her grandmother Inga to revisit and make peace with the tragic story of her sister Rigmor, a Jewish girl in 1930s Germany. 

Yes, Rigmor's story is a hard one to read. That is deals with mental health and Jewishness in pre-War Germany should be enough to give a clue as to how it will pan out, but the story is by no means straightforward.

Sabine, Inga and Rigmor are beautifully drawn and fully formed. Sabine and Inga's relationship is complex, but you genuinely feel the developments as the story unfolds. Ultimately, Inga's journey is one of acceptance and a second chance. There's hope, there's redemption, there's heartbreak and acceptance. And I loved it.
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This book is based on the author’s own family.  In my opinion, that makes me more invested in the story, which involves suffering,  mental health issues and the inhumanity of the Nazi regime.  At first I had a hard time traveling between the two different times as well as the names in the lives of this family.  Everything became more clear as the story went on.  
I thought this book was very well written and interesting.  I highly recommend Where the Madness Lies.

Thank you to #NetGalley, the publisher and author for this book and all opinions are my own.
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This was a fascinating book, , at times hard to read, but equally hard to put down. Two women suffering mental illness one during WW11 when Hitler was rising to power and her descendant in the 20th century in the USA.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and commend tge writer on a tale well told
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While I do not think this is a bad book, I did not enjoy it as much as I expected. Where Madness Lies tells the story of two sisters, Inga and Rigmor, living in Germany in the 1930s before the rise of the Nazi regime.  They are from a wealthy Jewish family and are pretty well off, except for one thing: Rigmor deals with mental health issues which back in the day were not understood. Besides this, the family soon faces the growing fascist ideas from Hitler, who considers all mental illness a sign of weakness and thus, all those patients who suffer from it have no right to live.  Fifty years later Inga is still alive and is confronted with the fact that mental illness run through her family and the truth is necessary to help her grandfather, Sabine, who has just been institutionalized at the psychiatric ward.  The story goes back and forth between Inga and Rigmor’s lives and Sabine’s present fifty years later, and as the story progress we unveil what happened to Rigmor, the cruelty of the Nazi regime to those deemed feebleminded, and how the truth will encourage Sabine to deal with her health. 

As I said, the book is not bad but personally, I felt something was missing.  The first half of the book I was completely immersed in the story of all characters and I found the historical context of the story to be gripping.  There are indeed many stories set in WWII but I think this is one of the first books I’ve encountered that focuses on many of the other atrocities committed by the Nazi regime against other minority groups.  That said, I think what did not work out for me was the two storylines –while Sabine’s story was interesting, I felt nothing really happened on the chapters dedicated to it.  Yes, we do learn from Inga’s concern toward her granddaughter and how accompanying Sabine will in the end bring closure to what happened to her sister half a century ago, but I felt this plotline could have been shortened or told differently –for example, as a confession from Inga to Sabine once she was on treatment, etc.  I was so invested on Rigmor’s story that when we switched to the present, it completely threw me off.  I would have preferred to have all the story set in the past and thus explore a bit more of the social and cultural context of Germany in the mid-1930s, before the rise of Hitler and for example, how Rigmor’s family dealt with friends and society having a member with mental health issues. 

I liked all of characters because they felt very real but the only one I have a comment on is Arnold.  He is a psychiatrist and Inga contacts him to try to cure Rigmor.  Soon we find out he is attracted to men so he must hid this as well, as homosexuality is also forbidden by the Nazi regime.  Arnold soon becomes close to both sisters and will play a key role in Rigmor’s life but to be honest –I did not understand why he was portrayed as a gay man.  Not because it is wrong but because it added nothing to the story –he could have been perfectly straight and we could have had something more dramatic in terms of the characters’ relationships but well… I won´t add much because of spoilers). 

Overall, this is a well-written book, fast-paced and quite innovative in the topic it addressed, brining fresh air to WWII historical fiction that is very need.  Personally, and as I mentioned, what did not work out for me was the dual timeline and by the last chapters of the book I was a bit tired and not very interested in Sabine’s story.  But as said, that is only a personal preference and this book might be enjoyed by most readers.
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I have always been fascinated with early treatments for mental illness. The various ideas and techniques used were sometimes based in science, but more often, driven by ego and occasionally, evil. This book takes that on as the rising power of Hitler emphasizes the doctrines of eugenics in order to justify their treatment of Jews, people with mental and psychological disabilities, and other minority groups. 

This book fueled my interest of psychology's history, but left me wanting more. The book is primarily focused on the character development of two main characters (Sabine and Rigmor), separated by generations, but linked through their battle with mental illness. It's a beautiful story and it comes to an even more beautiful ending. If you love reading about intergenerational relationships and enjoy historical fiction, go pick this one up! 

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for my review.
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I started this book and then had to put it aside.  It was not that the writing was poor or the story boring.  It was exactly the opposite.  I found myself too embroiled in the reality of the tale and had to take a moratorium before I could complete it.  Perhaps there were elements of the story that were too close to home but I am glad that I persevered with this disturbing and deeply moving book.

Told from the perspective of two women five decades and an ocean apart.  It begins with Inga and her sister Rigmor, two young Jewish women trying to survive in a world turned upside down by the Nazis.    They have another problem that eventually overwhelms them.  Rigmor suffers from mental illness.  If there was one thing that was worse in the Nazi universe than being Jewish, it was having mental issues.  

Their story rotates back and forth with another woman suffering from mental illness.  New mother, Sabine, cannot cope and seeks help at an institution. She is Inga’s granddaughter who has been estranged from Inga all her life.  When Inga arrives to “help” little does either woman know that in revealing the tragedy surrounding Rigmor and the young psychiatrist who tried to help her, they would both find they are not alone and that there is hope.  It is an intensely moving and deeply disturbing tale.  While it is in novel form, the author admits that it was plucked out of the history of her own family.

I do give the book five purrs and two paws up,  but do not approach it if you are not in the right frame of mind.  The story will rock you in so many different ways.
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Although the topics discussed in this book are awful, they highlight important facts in our world's history...the eugenics program along with the persecution and execution of the mentally ill. Everything was well done and I was engrossed in the novel from beginning to end.

Thanks netgalley for giving me the pdf so that I can share my thoughts and opinions with y'all 🧡
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An interesting read that I'm glad to have discovered. I'll definitely be seeking out more by this author.
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Although the subject matter is not a pleasant one, the reality of the Nazi eugenics programs is written about very well in this novel set in 2 time frames, a young woman patient during WWII and a young woman in 1984 battling psychiatric problems. Sensitively portrayed, these characters will stay with you for a long time. Mesmerizing and poignant.
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What an excellent read! 
These characters were gripping and the story so heart wrenching! The lives they led were so filled with difficulty made so much worse by the times they lived in.
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It's so rare that I'll be left speechless by a book. This story was beautiful and heartbreaking, and to find that it's based on the authors own family experiences is just chilling. So often this aspect of eugenics is ignored, and to finally hear this story shared is so special.
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This is an amazing story, following Inga from Nazi Germany, where her mentally ill sister gets caught up in the eugenics scheme of the Nazis, to modern day America, where she fights the same demons for her mentally ill granddaughter. Based on a true story from the authors own family history, it's filled with flawed characters whose quiet strength belie the horrid secrets they must keep, which sometimes hide their love beneath a harsh appearance. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Top Hat Books through NetGalley.
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Enjoyed this one. I felt like there was something missing though, something I needed to love it. Well thought out plot and easy to read.
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*Many thanks to Sylvia True, John Hunt Publishing, and NetGalley for arc inexchange for my honest review.*
A different approach to WW2 with the focus on mental health and how the next generations were affected by it. I was not invested in story as much as I would have liked to and the characters left me rather indifferent. However, the books itself reads rather well despite the subject matter which is upsetting and depressing.
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This book did initially intrigue me, but I grew bored as nothing was really happening that would make me desperately want to get to the next page. The premise was promising and it did meet my expectations, but I felt like we were going in circles and nothing was really happening. I was satisfied by the ending, but all in all, this wasn't a satisfying read as a whole.
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Hereditary mental illness and eugenics. Same family fifty years apart, connected through Inga. In 1934 the family is Jewish, well off and with a daughter who needs mental help. They have tried everything they can at home but eventually have her placed in a sanitarium, hoping she gets the help she needs. This is the beginning stirrings of Hitler's intentions, but the signs are already apparent. Although eugenics started in the US, Hitler uses this program to rid the world of those he considers undesirable. These of course included those thought defective, mentally ill. First sterilization and then.....

Fifty years later Sabine, from the same line, voluntarily enters McClean hospital. She finds herself unable to cope, anxiety ridden. Inga, her grandmother, arrives from Switzerland to help. Family secrets will be uncovered and hidden knowledge will be exposed.

There are several scenes that are beyond heartbreaking, which one expects when reading anything to do with Hitler. Even after the many books I have read about the horrendous acts he committed, they still have the ability to shock. This story is based on the authors own family history and she tells it with empathy and sympathy. With the understanding that even those who had good intentions were given little choice. 

ARC from Netgalley.
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Amazing amazing amazing book!! The description had me wanting this book and once I got it I dove right it and WOW! The story was so unique and powerful. I also was so glued to the two different time periods. I also feel this book really tackled mental illness in a eye opening way. I highly recommend this book!
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I am so sorry, I do not know how I missed that I got a copy of this NetGalley books. It sounds so interesting. I do apologize. I was newer to Net Galley and not as familiar with website and App. 

I don’t think I can access the book now, but think I am interested in buying. Sounds fascinating.
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