Cover Image: Where Madness Lies

Where Madness Lies

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Member Reviews

I'm pretty sure I enjoyed this book.  There were aspects I liked and others I didn't enjoy.  I enjoyed the different viewpoints of WW2 and I actually learned quite a bit about mental health patients and the absolute devastating events they went through during this terrifying time in history.  I enjoyed the relationships that were built in this novel as well as the story progression.  I didn't enjoy the writing- at times the writing was easy to follow and easy to read and others I was skimming, bored and waiting for the story to progress at a quicker pace.  Overall, I liked this novel, but I didn't love it.  I'm glad I read it, but I'm not out recommending it to everyone.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
Historical fiction based on WWII is very popular but this book is unlike any historical fiction I have read before. The subject of mental illness during this time period is very fascinating and definitely eye-opening. Sylvia True writes so well and the jumping between time periods really worked for this book.
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The generational gap stories always hold my attention because they tie the past with the present (even if the present isn't TODAY's time, it's still a present timeline. Tying the past/present in a generational time gap both shows differences in the times, but also similarities between the times and its characters in both. Truly a wonderful read.
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Boy this is a tough read and not for the faint hearted. I had to have a couple of goes at reading it and found it hard going but that is not to say that it is not an important subject or one to avoid if you would like a challenge. Mixing the subjects of mental illness over the changing ideas of different generations with that of the Nazi regime will always result in a difficult task, both for the writer and reader.
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Let me start by saying I am not a fan of historical fiction but I found myself entranced by this book. I struggle with mental health issues and the way the subject was delicately handled by the author was a breath of fresh air, especially in a book that presented how individuals with mental health issues were so horribly treated in the past. 

The main characters are likable and easy to relate to - my favorites being Sabine and Inga. I don’t often cry when reading books but I felt such a connection to these characters I found myself emotional at times. 

Switching between time periods worked extremely well - the author did this flawlessly. The atmosphere and settings were beautifully and sometimes disturbingly described. I felt like I was there with the characters and I will miss them. I was touched by this book and shown that true love can conquer brutal hatred from outside forces and even quiet inner demons. Thank you to Sylvia True for sharing a bit of your wonderfully beautiful family with us. 

Thank you to Sylvia True, John Hunt Publishing Ltd, and #NetGallery for an ARC of #WhereMadnessLies in exchange for an honest review. Review will be shared on NetGallery, Goodreads, and Facebook.
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It is the year 1934 in Germany. Inga’s sister Rigmor is suffering from depression and psychosis. It’s a time in which people suffering from mental illnesses are frowned upon. Inga and her mother Frieda have tried several doctors and treatments, but to no avail. Then Inga comes up with a new plan. They have to find Rigmor a friend, someone she can talk to and perhaps even fall in love with. Inga chooses psychiatrist Arnold for this. Hesitant at first he accepts and gets involved in Rigmors life, leading up to  her being institutionalized at Sonnenstein Castle in Pirna. Will Rigmor be okay?

Then it is 1984. Inga flies to the United States after hearing that her granddaughter Sabine has been admitted to a mental hospital. Sabine is also suffering from depression and psychosis. Inga desperately wants to help her granddaughter and make sure that she escapes the fate that her sister Rigmor had to endure. Even if it means bringing back tormenting memories.  At the hospital she meets her greatgranddaughter Mia. Will Sabine be able to hold on to Mia?

This is the gripping story told by Sylvia True in Where Madness Lies. I was entranced by it from the beginning to the end. The incredible sadness of it all, but still leading to that hopeful ending.

A story packed with lessons from history. Did you know that Sonnenstein Castle actually served as one of the extermination centres during World War 2? The castle was used as a home for patients suffering from mental illnesses since 1811. In 1940 a gas chamber and crematorium were installed, which we used until the end of 1942. Up to 15.000 people were killed there. Where Madness Lies starts a little before that. At the point their were ‘only’ sterilizing their patients. ‘Only’. As if that is not horrible enough.

In my review of Christina Dalcher’s Master Class I already mentioned Where Madness Lies and the uncanny similarities between these stories. Master Class was recommended to me, but Where Madness Lies I picked myself a couple of months ago and then I forgot about it. So it came quite as a surprise to find myself reading two novels one after the other about repression and sterilisation in Germany and the United States.

This is a book everyone needs to read to get a better understanding of people suffering from depression. The combination of the historical point of view and the more recent developments give a great insight in what those people go through. It doesn’t only show the symptoms of their mental illness, but it also paints a clear picture of the distrust and scepticism other people show towards their illness. Trust me, it has been like that and it still is.
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There were parts of this book that I enjoyed a lot.
Historical novels, especially around this time period hold huge appeal for me and I also like learning and reading about mental health.
So, going into this book I had high expectations , especially when I kept seeing good reviews about it.
Yet, when it cam down to it, there were also a lot of parts I didn't enjoy and I found my attention drifting in a way it usually wouldn't with a historical book.
For me, this book ended up being just OK.
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I’ve read a lot of historical books about World War 2 but nothing quite like this before.  This book looks at mental health and the way people with any sort of differences were viewed by the Nazi Party.   It is quite an eye opener and a stark reminder to us all how easily things can change as policies were put in place during the 1930s without much notice from the wider population or the outside World.. Reading this book you also get an insight into the wider impact that living with mental health problems has on the whole family both in terms of how it effects everyone’s lives and also how it influences future generations genetically.  This book is a really good and interesting read made even more amazing by the fact that it is based on the author’s very own family story.  Whilst the subject matter is quite difficult to read about the author has managed to write about it in a really sensitive and accessible way.

Rigmor is a young Jewish women living as a patient in a top psychiatric facility in Germany in the 1930s who finds herself swept up in the Nazi campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.  In the USA in 1984 Sabine commits herself to hospital following several episodes of depression and crippling panic.  Linking these two women is Inga who does everything she can to help her sister and now finds herself in a position to help her granddaughter too.
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Excellent read from Sylvia True, a tough subject I’m drawn to. the holocaust and mental health. A comparison between Rigmor a woman of Jewish descent and  jumping forward to 1984 and a descendant admitted to a psychiatric institution with anxiety and depression.  Rigmor’s sister Inga is the strong character holding them both together, trying to protect them both from being stigmatised and with Rigmor from the primitive psychiatric treatments and the rising Nazi  power with their discriminations against those who are “undesirable”.  A novel built on confidence and a cheerfulness that will prevail the horrors of the war and the separation of a mother and child.

Thanks to Netgalley the author and publishers for an ARC of this book in return for an honest review,
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Book: Where Madness Lies
Author: Sylvia True
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Top Hat Books, for providing me an ARC. 

I normally am not a fan of books told in two different time periods with different characters. However, this one did leave me very interested. I found the parallels between the two main characters to be very interesting and very engaging. I also thought it was a nice touch that the two women were related and that  everything did come together in the end. To me, this is a the mark of a well planned out and well thought out story. To have everything come together in a way that makes sense just shows me what type of author Sylvia is. 

I found the women’s stories to be very interesting. The first one takes place in Nazi Germany, which we all know from history is not the nicest place in the world. However, by allowing us to see the horrors first hand through the characters, we get a sense of what the Nazi rule was really like. We get to see the sickening nature and the horrors that people had to go through. The things that this book talks about are very dark and disturbing. The most disturbing part of it all is that this did actually happen to people. I know these characters aren’t real and all, but they are based on real people and this story is based on real events. Whenever you look at it like that, it adds an even darker look at the book. It just brings it home and makes you really stop and think about just how cruel history can be. 

Then, we get another woman going through mental illness in the 1980s. The differences and the similarities as the 1940s are kind of shocking. We still see that kind of frowned upon nature and the lack of support, but, at least, in the 1980s, she isn’t facing death or anything like that. Just to see how people are trying to have a normal life with mental illness but lacking the support and the talk of society is just hard. I know we are a little bit more open about mental illness today, but a lot of this still holds true. The 1980s timeline still features a lot of negative ways that society views mentally ill people. We get to see this woman deal with people not thinking she can take care of herself, her baby, her husband threatening to take everything away her, and so much more. We get to see her internal struggle as she deals with coming to terms with her own mental illness and the lack of support that she has. This all exists today and it’s so sad that people still have to go through with this. 

The fact that Sylvia was able to get this much out of me just tells me what kind of an author she is. I could tell that this is something very close to her and that she spent a lot of time and thought into researching this book. I’m not saying this just because the publisher sent me an ARC. I mean what I say. I loved how this book made me feel-even though it wasn’t all good. This is what I want from my books. I want feel something from what I am reading-if it is horror. Congrats on making me feel something! 
Anyway, I highly recommend that you check this book out and other books by this publisher. I have been working with them over well over two years now and I have not been disappointed by anything that they have put out. 

This book comes out on February 1, 2021.

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I have read up to the 25% point in this book and unfortunately, I am finding I am not enjoying the story. I think it is because of the two time lines and the fact that these two stories seemed to be so drawn out with too much detail. Perhaps someday, I will once again pick it up, but right now it is not the right time and place.

Thank you for forwarding this story to me.
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Where Madness Lies is a study of how mental illness and the stigma around the mentally ill affects a family. Inga loved her sister, Rigmor, and did what she thought was best for Rigmor. Unfortunately, there were few good options and many of Inga’s best intentions go awry. Inga recruits a young psychiatrist to help Rigmor with tragic results. With the Nazi program of sterilizing and eliminating the mentally ill looming, Inga is forced to make decisions that she will later regret. When her granddaughter, Sabine, checks herself into a psychiatric hospital, Inga gets another chance to care for her loved one, and hopefully, make better choices.

More than a story of what it is like to have a mental illness, this novel is the story of the people who love and care for mentally ill people. It is an insight into the powerlessness and confusion a family can experience as they try to navigate a world of experimental treatments and secretive institutions. By contrasting life in a psychiatric hospital in 1934 and in 1984, we see how treatments have improved, but many things have stayed the same. Families still confront the stigma of mental illness and have to deal with their own shame.

This is not a light read and it took some time to settle into the story, but I did enjoy learning what happened to the Blumenthal family and how they coped with the mentally ill women in each generation.

Thanks to NetGalley and John Hunt Publishing for a review copy of the novel.
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this was a great read, I really enjoyed how respectable the author did with the subject. The characters were great and I really enjoyed reading this.
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Frieda Sommer had a reputation for being "tough". Divorced from her husband, she was bringing up her two daughters, Inga, the elder, and Rigmore, in pre-war Frankfurt. Inga idolized Rigmore, who always seemed to capture all the attention in a room. There was a problem with all that attention: Rigmore never enjoyed it, and never wanted to be the center of attention. In fact, she got the most pleasure listening to other people talk about themselves and their interests and concerns. Rigmore shied away from attention. From a young age, at night, in her bed, Rigmore had visions of insects crawling under her skin (and other terrible thoughts), that would not only prevent her from falling asleep, but also caused her to hurt herself (attempting to "cut" the creepy crawlers out). 

Despite numerous consultations, over many years, the Sommer family had yet to receive a diagnosis / treatment to help Rigmore, and both her mom, (Frieda), and her sister (Inga), were trying, and, they were both, very well versed in the recent developments taking place at this time, (the mid 1930's) in the field of psychiatry.

As the story opens, Inga hears about a new doctor, who could possibly help Rigmore, Dr. Arnold Richter. Frieda is sceptical, but Inga begs her mother to give her plan with Arnold a chance. Arnold is also reluctant to get involved with Inga's scheme, but soon, he agrees, once he meets the lovely Rigmore. 

Weaved into the story of Rigmore and the Sommer family,  is the story behind the creation of the gas chambers, which, the Nazis created, to be the most efficient means of "purifying" the population.It is well known that the Nazis believed that through the practice of Eugenics, they planned to create a master race, that would be free of all diseases, including (especially) mental illness.

The story jumps ahead to the 1980's, and Inga is a grandmother, and is living in Switzerland. When she receives a message from her daughter Lisbet, that Sabine (inga's granddaughter) has checked into the hospital (having trouble "coping" ....). Inga checks onto the next flight to Boston to help Sabine. Having been through this before, Inga hopes she can be the help Sabine needs.

This story, although fiction, is based on events that actually took place in the author, Sylvia True's,  family. 

The way the gas chambers were devised, and also eventually put into operation, brings forward the whole issue of who was responsible for the death of the millions of Jews (as well as others) in the gas chambers, and who should be rightly (justly) condemned. So many of those who were involved, stated, and believed, that they were #justfollowingorders from "above". Silence is no defense.

Thank you #netgalley for the e-ARC of #wheremadnesslies for my honest review, it was certainly a very interesting read.
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I found it difficult to get into this book, but glad I persevered. A moving a thought-provoking exploration of mental illness through the ages.
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My rating of four stars is because of this historical fiction book based in part by fact was difficult emotionally to read and take in. In the synopsis it describes the subject of eugenics practiced in Germany in 1936 and euthanasia as a way of the Nazi's coping with it as having hope and redemption in this novel. I do not feel that the novel offered much hope or was by any means uplifting like the historical novel I just read and reviewed called, "Where Butterflies Go," written by Debra Doxer. If you are looking for a historical novel that is about the Holocaust that offers hope and redemption along with the agonies and the ecstasies look for Ms. Doxner's novel. In this novel called "Where Madness Lies," it was very well written and compelling reading but it was very depressing in my humble opinion. Nevertheless, the novel is based in factual information about the author's family during Hitlers rise to power and the story must be told so that we never forget. This novel reminded me of one of Diane Chamberlain's novel about the practice of Eugenics practiced in the United States in the South which was also filled with some hope but certainly love. Love of family by Inga's character was certainly expressed in this novel also.

This novel takes place in two different time periods about a grandmother from Frankfurt, Germany in 1935 and 1936 about a young woman named Rigmor who suffers from schizophrenia who comes from an affluent family. The other time period from which this novel alternates chapter's with is the time period of 1984 in Belmont, Massachusetts in McLean's hospital which was one of the Countries most prestigious Mental hospital's with Rigmor's granddaughter Sabine who is suffering from depression with psychotic features. Sabine has just had a baby girl named Mia who she is separated from when she volunteers to check in to Mclean's hospital. Inga who was Rigmor's elder sister is believed to be Sabine's grandmother by Sabine.

The loving tenderness with which Inga treats her sister Rigmor is poignant and touching and very emotionally moving. Inga studies treatments and mental illness and with her affluence is able to consult with Germany's very finest psychiatrist's who have studied the science of mental illness and what are some of the best treatments and diagnosis for 1936. Frieda, who is Inga's and Rigmor's mother clearly favors Rigmor over Inga. She comes across as a very domineering woman and is divorced. They are from the Jewish ethnicity and a very unconventional treatment which Rigmor undergoes behind Frieda's back orchestrated by Inga results in how Sabine's existence came to be.

I didn't like Inga at first and found her to be very domineering like her mother Frieda but as the novel proceeds to tell both Sabine's and Rigmor's stories I grew to understand that she had a great capacity to love both Rigmor and Sabine and she tried her best to help them both in their treatments.

What must be noted here is that the sterilization of any human being thought to be "feeble minded" or mentally ill was taking place not only in Germany in 1936 and 1937 but all over the world even the United States. What was being done in Germany long before the racially cleansing of the Jewish population where the death chambers being designed in Germany by gassing unsuspecting people who were mentally ill, "feeble minded" or thieves etc. in the asylums such as Sonnenstein where Rigmor was admitted to. That was not what killed Rigmor but an infection that she developed after sterilization.

To be fair to the author she has written a well written and informative account about how Eugenics and sterilization and the gas chamber's which the children and anyone to be born with characteristics of mental illness or for example Down Syndrome were starting to be experimented on and were gassed in what these innocent's thought was simply taking a shower. Except these so called showers were really chambers of carbon monoxide being pumped in. This was done before gas chambers and crematoriums were erected in the concentration camps as they were first done in the asylums. The families would receive a letter that their loved one died of heart failure or some other lying cause to avoid detection of the true cause of death. Starvation was used also to innocent inhabitants of these asylum's for mental illness like Sonnenstein or Elfging.

The obsession of race gripped Germany under Hitler's regime. Under the Nuremberg law no person's of Jewish and Aryan ethnicity were permitted to be married in 1937 and well into World War II. This novel of historical significance the author claims related to her family. While the author claim's that her grandmother the Jewish matriarch of the family fled to emigrate to Switzerland giving up all of her money and possessions and social status before the start of World War II for reason's much more secretive and dangerous than Judaism in 1935, which was mental illness on her mother's side of the family. The names have been changed and some of the details are how the author imagined them, not exactly as they might have been. But the bones of the story are true. The author's grandmother cared deeply about her family and as an aristocrat her grandmother desperately wanted her grandchildren to master the art of refinement so that they could be accepted in the highest circles of society. This is the author's grandmother's story as well as the author's.

My final thoughts on this well above average written historical fiction based on some factual history was ultimately hard to read and did not lift my spirits even though there were some extremely loving and tender moments shown between sister's and grandmother and granddaughter. For most of the book it was interesting and impossible to put down. I do think towards the last quarter I felt like the storytelling was dragging and would have been appreciated by me if it was less detailed and shortened. I did find it fascinating for most of the book but I didn't feel inspired or spiritually uplifted like I did with "Where Butterflies Go," by Debra Doxer whose book about the Holocaust left me feeling in high spirits and wanting to recommend it to family and friend's. However, that is just my humble opinion and my intellect feels like this is equally important in being a part of our history that needs to be exposed and deserves to be read so that we never forget the human suffering that took place for one reason. Also my hopes are for those who choose to read this that it educates and that those that still stigmatizes those in this world today who suffer from mental illness will change their views towards kindness and compassion for those who suffer from mental illness. I have known people who in this day and age stigmatize people with mental illness. Even nurses which I would think to be educated and realize that nobody is less of a person, in fact we are all equal and have intrinsic value in our shared humanity. It is not weakness on the individual's part and nobody would choose to suffer its affects. I wish that I could force the people who I have known to read this novel but I fear that they would be too stubborn and close minded in their deep beliefs. If by this author's choice to share this story educates just one person to not stigmatize those who have suffered from mental illness than she has succeeded in bringing kindness and compassion to archaic thinking.

Publication Date: January 21, 2021

Thank you to Net Galley, Sylvia True (You are so brave to have shared your story.), and to John Hunt Publishing Ltd for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

#WhereMadnessLies #SylviaTrue #JohnHuntLtdPublishing #NetGalley
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Sylvia True presents the sort of story that is hard to forget. Heartbreakingly beautiful, Where Madness Lies tells the story of three generations of women and the illness that haunted them. Against the backdrop of the Nazis plans for racial purity, two sisters face insurmountable odds in the search for proper psychiatric care. Time jumps between the 1930s and 40s to the 1980s where a young relative fights her own battle with the same mental illness.

Family is reconciled, hurt is healed and hope is found once more through this beautiful story. Along with the personal accounts of the characters, much is explained about the state of psychology through the decades and how dark its history truly is. 

I fell in love with the characters almost immediately and shared their sorrow, horror and hurt. There was a sense of camaraderie with the women in the story and a deep desire to save them from their circumstance. In the end, I cried for the characters, the history and the terrible things so many endured throughout those difficult times. This story will stay with me forever without a doubt.
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A difficult, challenging read but worthwhile. Based on the author’s own family the story follows a family in 1934 Germany and 1984 USA uncovering what happened in the past and how this can influence the future.
Dealing with eugenics, the Nazi rise to power and their desire to rid the world of people with mental illness and other defects.
Inga struggles to help her depressed sister in Nazi Germany and fifty years later tries to help her own granddaughter Sabine who has similar problems..
This book makes the reader think about family, depression, communication and hope for the future.
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What’s it all about?
This is a true account set within two different time periods interchanging between 1930’s and 1984. It focuses on four main characters, Sabine, Inga, Arnold and Rigmor. who’s fate are interwoven by part circumstance, and part biological fate.
Its begnnings are amongst a backdrop of Nazi Gremany, rampant anti -Semitism ,Health Courts, developing Psychiatry and Eugenics.
What’s good about it?
Its a fantastic albeit heart wrenching story of deteriorating mental health during a period of extremism and racism against people who were deemed unworthy to live. The phrase “life unworthy of life” ( German“Lebensunwertes Leben”) was a Nazi term for the segments of the populace which according to the Nazi regime had no right to live. The characters are well described and the interpersonal narratives between them all felt as though I was living through the same brutal place. I have to say that Inga is a remarkable, courageous woman and I could have quite easily fallen in love with her myself; a true feminist in compared to its modern day interpretation. I try to imagine what decision I would have made if I were presented with the same circumstance as her; it will break your heart!
These were people of high society, who had wealth and were very cultured in the arts, but in many ways helpless and at the mercy of the changing political landscape. 
The descriptions of the asylums were detailed; providing the reader with some unique insights of what life was like for some of the patients.; and provided the embryonic stages of the final solution. The title is a cleaver one, and has many meanings once the full story unfolds. 
What’s not so good about it?
To be really picky, I would have liked a slightly longer ending to tie off some of the narrative. 
An absolutely riveting read, Loved it, Love it !
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The author couples a story about generational mental Illness and the focused evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazi party during the years prior to WWII during and afterward. It begins in 1934 with Rigmor a young Jewish girl being cared for at a leading German psychiatric institution.  The Nazi party just taking power has introduced the concept of eugenics as a means of cleansing the population of persons deemed tainted by mental illness and other features indicated as not being pure enough to exist in Germany. Inga, Rigmor's sister takes a hand in helping her avoid being exterminated.
     In 1984 Massachusetts in the U.S. Inga again rises to help another member of her family; her granddaughter Sabine.  Sabine has committed herself to a mental institution suffering through crippling panic attacks and horrific states of depression.  She is pregnant and the law indicates that in order to leave the hospital she must give up her baby. She finds that medicines developed are allowing her to cope with her maladies and is ready to leave the hospital when stopped by the probability of giving up her baby.
     Sylvia True pulls no punches in her writings.  The Nazis executing people they deem unfit to live in Germany and an unreasoning law in Massachusetts allowing a doctor to take away a woman's baby without further recourse are linked together in terms of harm done by authority to those that are suffering from mental illness.  Descriptions of the politics prevalent in 1934 Germany and in 1984 Massachusetts are discussed as causes of what is described, but the novel is first and foremost about the devastation of mental illness in a family and the possibility that it will not stop at affecting only one generation. Ms. True does indicate that the story has a basis in the history of her own family which may have allowed her to present the cases so eloquently.  A novel very different from most that I have read due to showcasing scenarios that are not that commonly written about in novels.  One that does indicate an author that is well worthwhile looking for in the near future.
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