Cover Image: Starvation Heights

Starvation Heights

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Member Reviews

I've read a few different stories about this actual event and this one was by far the most detailed and realistic. This was a new to me author but he did an excellent job showing the details of what happened and i felt as though i was there. definitely a book I'm still thinking about.

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This was a great book. I loved every paragraph, every sentence and every word of this masterpiece! I read it in 12 hours, which is a lot for me to do! It had everything and more laid out in the novel! I sure hope There is more to come from this author! I am totally hooked!

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I started and kept this book down a couple of times. Though this book did not connect well with me, but I will give this book another try soon.

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I think I enjoy listening to true crime books rather than reading them, but I finally made it to this one. Definitely a wild story! Not my favorite Olsen, but amongst them for sure!

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This was so fascinating and well researched - I’d never heard of it before but the way that she ran the ‘therapy’ was insane and I was just entirely hooked

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I don’t know what macabre sort of mood I was in when I decided to read Starvation Heights by Greg Olsen - gruesome and cruel are not my usual preferences, but medical non-fiction is.

Olsen has a gift for novelising non-fiction. He imagines the rustle of the wind through the leaves, the growling of stomachs, and so avoids stepping into a trap of dreary facts. (One does wonder, though, at which point such embellishments become excessive. Certainly the author cannot know that the sun shone just so, or how the floorboards creaked. If it makes the work more palatable to the layperson, is it permissible?)

By placing the Williamson sisters front and centre, Olsen provides protagonists to drive development of the narrative, and while their story is undoubtedly important - especially since it was instrumental in Linda Hazzard’s litigation - a closer look at the murderer herself may have provided more body to Starvation Heights. Even the British consul is better developed than Hazzard’s background. While nobody would dare suggest that the fraudulent doctor was not indeed a criminal and murderer, a book about a serial killer certainly calls for more background about the perpetrator. Instead, the reader is left to surmise her cold-heartedness based on her comments and lack of emotion in court, and her verbal abuse of her husband.

Through several chapters that tend towards repetition, the reader is treated to an example of bad American litigation not so different to courts today, and the very near-miss of the case’s very existence. As so often happens, Hazzard seems to come off lightly for her actions, not unlike the modern treatment of charlatan doctors when they find themselves on the defence. It may be worth noting that so-called “starvation cures” have managed to survive the intervening century in various iterations, and laypersons remain at the mercy of practitioners who are both charismatic and dangerous.

Starvation Heights is worthy of attention for the light it brings to medical negligence and fraud, and the interplays of time and place on these cases.

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A chilling story about how people believed in long-term fasting back then and were manipulated in horrific ways for the gain of one narcissistic woman and her forsaken husband. What a read!

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Thank you Netgalley and Thread Books for this arc in exchange for an honest review,

"Starvation Heights" by Gregg Olsen follows wealthy sisters Claire and Dora Williamson that take part in a fasting treatment with this Dr. Linda Hazzard who they had approached in her sanctuary during 1911.

I would give "Starvation Heights: by Gregg Olsen a 3-star review because, it is such a interesting story while horrifying at times, what was my compelling is the fact that this actually happened, I just felt that the story was too long and repetitive.

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I cant say I enjoy a read by Gregg Olsen but I always learn something. His books are so well researched and I cant believe people do this. Really worth a read but it is very harrowing and not an easy read

I was given a free copy by netgalley and the publishers but the review is entirely my own.

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This was a deeply sad and horrifying book regarding the true nature of families and parents. What we see on the outside doesn’t always reveal the inside.

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Overall Starvation Heights was an okay read I found myself enjoying the first third of the books more than the last of it. It could have done with some better editing but you can tell a lot of research went into it.
2.5 stars rounded up to 3.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Starvation Heights is a terrifying true story of one of the most horrific crimes imaginable by caregivers. It chronicles the ride and fall of a sanatorium that treated patients by extensive fasting. Participants went willingly to their death thinking this was a miracle cure fir all that ails the doctors patients if only they can indure. I found it horrific that this actually happened and the book is riveting a must read.

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This book is well regarded and gets a lot of attenton. I can't say it's badly written. It's well written. I thought I would be engrossed. But for some reason it never grabbed me. I have nothing bad to say about the book. If you are interested in murder of the Pretty Poison variety, you may enjoy it. Excellent author.

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I know that this is a true crime book and I am sure that there are fans and people who will disagree with me but I just found it to be so far fetched. Like what kind of monster would do this.

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Absolutely terrifying and fascinating all at the same time. The true story of a doctor who starves her patients in the early 1900s (many of whom come to her looking for rest and relaxation), this would read just as well as a fiction novel. It travels far beyond the medical facility in which Dr. Linda Hazzard essentially tortures women by withholding food and brutally experimenting on them, also extending into their real lives with theft and bank fraud. Truly wild and jaw dropping, this is a shocking book for anyone who is not too disturbed by true crime.

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Gregg Olsen and his non-fiction works never disappoint. He is able to weave the facts and chilling pieces of information together in a way that makes the case come to live and shows the humanity of all involved. Cases where people put their trust in others based on their medical "knowledge" are so hard to read, the level of evil it takes to hurt someone that is coming to you for help is horrendous. This book captures the story perfectly.

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It's always so difficult to rate these kind of books. On one hand, it's absolutely disturbing that these realities exist, these circumstances did occur, and are extremely difficult to read and process, so I want to rate it a '0' for the actual atrocities that occurred and that I simply can't wrap my mind around the horror of it all. On the other hand, there is so much research and historical data that has been unearthed and put together in a way that the people come alive off the pages of what you're reading, that takes a certain finesse that few can pull off. And Gregg Olsen has done it again.

What lies in this book is truly a horrific story of a madwoman, who believes that she has been enlightened to a gift of curing all maladies that modern 'regular schools' cannot. While never attending medical school, Linda Hazzard starts off as a nurse, who fights for her rights to obtain a medical degree, and what may have started off as wanting to treat people of their illnesses certainly takes a turn that is incomprehensible to those in their right minds.

Claire and Dona Williamson are faddists looking to cure themselves of minor ailments and find an article promoting the great fasting physician. They reach out and ask if she will treat them, and a back and forth conversation takes place. Ultimately, they end up at Linda's home to be treated, not realizing who they are entrusting their health, and ultimately their lives, to. This story is a long one, full of twists and turns that just seem impossible, and yet it really did happen. And I sincerely hope it never does again.
*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my own opinion*

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I think I requested the wrong thing here or misunderstood what it was. It’s a true story and it was hard for me to concentrate on it. Not that it was a bad book it just probably wasn’t for me. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for this copy for review

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I had such high hopes for this book! It’s a very interesting story don’t get me wrong, but it was just way too long for me. It took me an absolute age to finish unfortunately.

Starvation Heights is based on a true story of a doctor who starved her patients to death. Which is actually so terrifying when you think about the fact this is based on TRUE events! 😱 The story is about two wealthy girls that approach Dr Linda Hazzard and undergo her fasting “treatment” at her sanitarium in the woods back in 1911.

I did find quite a lot of the book very interesting but it was just way too long. I’ve heard that some people have enjoyed listening to it on audio, so maybe that is a better way to read this one, as it did take a while to get through. I think it could have been about 200 pages shorter than it was. I got a bit lost as the trials were taking place as I just think this section dragged, and I wanted to know if Dr Hazzard was going to be punished for her crimes.

I enjoyed the references to Belle Gunness (a Norwegian-American serial killer) as I learnt a lot about her when reading Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce a couple of years back so that was good to actually know who Dr Hazzard was being compared to. But overall, I wasn’t a massive fan of this one!

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Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen is the true story of Dr. Linda Hazzard and her bizarre methods of fasting to promote health (and of course murder).

First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher Thread Books and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


My Synopsis:    (No major reveals, but if concerned, skip to My Opinions)

In the early 1900's, Dr. Linda Hazzard founded the Hazzard Institute of Natural Therapeutics, a sanitarium in the forests of Olalla Washington, west of Seattle and cross the Puget Sound.  Locals called it "Starvation Heights".

She professed that all diseases, of both body and mind, could be cured through her revolutionary "fasting treatment".   While "curing" people, Linda Hazzard and her husband Sam, became rich.  Not all of their clients survived, but they often left their money to Linda, and that was okay.  After-all, she can't promise it will work for every one.

When British sisters Claire and Dora Williamson became aware of Dr. Hazzard in 1911, they were intrigued.  They often tried revolutionary treatments.  Claire in particular, was enthralled with the idea of fasting.  They willingly accepted the brutal methods employed by this woman.  Unfortunately, one of them died, and the other barely escaped.  The remaining sister took Dr. Hazzard to court.


My Opinions:
Well, the story was definitely interesting, definitely gruesome, and definitely a little scary.

Basically it was about a medical mal-practice suit.  "Dr." Hazzard fed only broth to her patients, brutally smacked their bodies, and gave them really long enemas.  Yet she felt she was doing no harm.  If her patient died, well, she took their money and moved on.

This book looked at two rather naive sisters who fall under the spell of a very greedy woman. But what was truly scary was the support this woman had, from a wide range of individuals.  She won over many people.  Without a doubt, Hazzard's internal strength and psychological methods made her a force to be reckoned with.  The prospect of being found guilty of killing someone surprised her.

The story was interesting, and although often repetitive, I had no real complaints with the writing.  However, my problem with the book was it's length.  It was much too long, and often dragged.  I ended up skimming, and couldn't wait to be done.

Bottom line, it was an interesting topic, which could have been written in a much more condensed manner.  I really enjoy Olsen's work, so I was a little disappointed in this one, but it certainly won't stop me from reading more by this talented author.

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