Book Review: The Cure for Dreaming
By: Cat Winters
Published By: Amulet Books
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fantasy
I loved Winters' debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, so I was eager to delve into another one of her historical fantasy concoctions. I love the mount of historical detail that Winters includes in her novels. The Cure for Dreaming is steeped with information on the women's suffrage movement and 1900's dentistry practices. I found them both to be fascinating, but I gravitated more towards the plight of women. I take so many of my rights and freedoms for granted. It was nice to be reminded of the women who campaigned to put me on more equal footing with males.
The story focuses on Olivia Mead, the daughter of a Portland dentist, who longs to experience a world that is largely closed to women. Olivia wants to vote, attend college, and become a journalist. Her dreams seem like wisps of smoke compared to the ironclad future as a wife and mother that her father envisions for her. He insists that its for her own good and that her dreams will only bring her pain. When a handsome and talented hypnotist comes to town, Mr. Mead feels that he finally has the solution to quell his daughter's rebellious nature. I was outraged by Mr. Mead's actions throughout the novel. It seemed to me that he cared more for himself and how society viewed him than he ever did for his daughter's well being. I couldn't help comparing Olivia to Cinderella in some moments when her father forced domestic duties upon her as a means to calm her.
The relationship between Olivia and Henry was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. I liked that these two form a true partnership that is not dictated by the gender norms of the time period. Henry sees Olivia as an equal and he wants her to achieve her goals. I also enjoyed watching Olivia and Henry mature into adulthood. People had to grow up much quicker in 1900 than they do today.
In addition to the relationship between Olivia and Henry, I also loved the friendship between Olivia and Frannie. Frannie is such a kind and genuine soul; she goes out of her way to help others - even those she barely knows. Frannie and Olivia have the sort of friendship that every girl needs during her teen years. It's nice to have someone that will always be on your side without question or judgment. It's also nice to see a friendship between two girls that isn't torn apart by some issue over a guy.
Furthermore, I enjoyed the hypnotism elements. Henry reminded me a bit of a young and dashing Harry Houdini. His skills marveled crowds and defied reality. I'm not sure that I believe in such a thing, but it was interesting to consider. I wonder if hypnotism was a fad during this time period; I'm inspired to dig a little deeper into the topic to learn more about the practice and its impact on life in the early 1900's.
This is one that I highly recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction set in the Pacific Northwest, readers who want to know more about gender roles in the early 1900's, or those who enjoy a slice of fantasy with their history. Winters has delivered a plucky heroin, an intriguing subject matter, and controversy galore.
One Last Gripe: A few slow moments here and there interrupted my reading momentum. This kept the novel from earning the full 5 rating.
Favorite Things About This Book: I love learning about Pacific Northwest history and all of the Dracula allusions
First Sentence: The Metropolitan Theater simmered with the heat of more than a thousand bodies packed together in red velvet chairs.
Favorite Character: Olivia
Least Favorite Character: Olivia's Father
Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.