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Greg Hollingshead's Bedlam: A Novel of Love and Madness

Updated on April 8, 2012

Bedlam is a complicated story of conspiracies and paranoia. The story is set around James Tilly Matthews in eighteenth century London.

Matthews is a real person, as is the Bedlam psychiatric facility. All the characters in Hollingshead's novel are real with real basis, but his story is fiction based.

The novel is told from three perspectives- Margaret Matthews, Dr. John Haslam, and James Matthews.

Essentially, Margaret tries to free her husband, who is in a psychiatric facility under false pretenses. She tries desperately to free him, but political forces keep him locked up.

Haslam is the asylum's chief apothecary. He is torn between his conscience and the lure of scientific study and discovery. He is a known author in the pretense of madness. Matthews is a valuable specimen for Haslam's studies, so where he believes Matthews could be released, he wants to maintain the ability to study him.

Matthews is in the asylum for reasons only he is aware. His work in politics is well known, but the actual reason for his stay is only known by him and the few politicians keeping him there.

If you like historical fiction based off real characters and events, you'll love Bedlam.

For me, it was a story that was hard to get into, but once you really learn the situations and events, the book becomes hard to put down. And, this comes from a person who prefers horror, mystery, and fantasy fiction.

Reading 'Bedlam' will not only teach you a little about history, but with a fun manner that will get you interested in learning more. I, for one, found myself doing a little research on the real people the characters were based off of.

Hollingshead definitely did his research when writing this novel, and for that, he definitely gets kudos.


"Superbly disturbing . . . a profoundly moving examination of both mental and political lunacy."--The Boston Globe

"Bedlam has no end of gorgeous writing . . . elegant, heartfelt . . . filled with rewarding descriptions of a bygone era."--The New York Times Book Review

"A vivid picture of the grotesque patients and sadistic staff of the 'English Bastille' adds density to the gallows humor that peppers this brutal story."--Publishers Weekly "Stylishly written, full of dazzling, epigrammatic insights . . . An intellectual novel, but also a moving story about fully fleshed human beings."--The Globe and Mail (Toronto)


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