Friday, March 13, 2009

Review: Bedlam South by Mark Grisham and David Donaldson

The following is a summary of Bedlam South from Mark Grisham's and David Donaldson's website:

Set in the heart of the Confederacy, Bedlam South is the story of ordinary people who fought and suffered, and loved and lost during the Civil War. The novel begins and ends in an insane asylum outside Richmond, Virginia, as it interweaves the
fates of its characters in a panoramic view of the Civil War. The asylum's chaos and internal strife echo the military and personal battles taking place over four years.

The story begins in 1862, when Dr. Joseph Bryarly leaves England to head Richmond's Wingate Asylum, run by the sadistic and scarred Captain Samuel Percy. Bryarly launches his own war battling the Captain on behalf of the inmates, while also battling his own demons. On the frontlines near Fredericksburg, seventeen-year-old Zeke Gibson joins his brother, Corporal Billy Gibson. In the midst of heavy fighting, they are separated. Each embarks on a path that will take him deep into lunacy and a struggle for survival as the war progresses and their fates become intertwined with Dr. Bryarly's.

My Review:

This was an enjoyable novel that really had something for everyone within it's pages. True brotherly love was revealed between two men as they were fighting side by side in the Civil War. Grisham and Donaldson not only brought us to the front-lines of several battles, but also showed us how soldiers were forced to deal with their anguish after they were committed to an insane asylum. There were several main characters in this novel that didn't even know the others existed, but once their paths would cross they would never be forgotten.

Dr. Bryarly is a well recognized psychological doctor from England and a close friend of President Jefferson Davis. When President Davis requests Dr. Bryarly's presence at the Wingate Asylum (named Bedlam South by residents), he feels that he has a responsibility to fulfill the President's charge by going to the asylum and helping as many soldiers as possible. He arrives at Bedlam South only to find it in total chaos under the current orders of Captain Samuel Percy. Captain Percy seemed to take pleasure in administering inhumane treatments to the soldiers that were in residence at the asylum. The only light at the end of the tunnel for these soldiers was when Dr. Bryarly arrived and did everything he could to protect them from Percy. Captain Percy of course frowned on Bryarly's actions and vowed he would kill him one day for interfering with his business.

Zeke Gibson at the age of seventeen, decided to join the Confederate cause so he could hopefully fight beside his brother Billy. He did find his brother Billy and was lucky enough to be assigned to the same brigade. Billy had been Zeke's childhood hero, so you can imagine how awed he was to learn that Billy was known as a war hero and actually earned the rank of a corporal officer. In the heat of battle the two brothers are separated and realize that it is highly possible that the other has been killed. As the book goes on, they both find themselves fighting for love, faith, and survival.

The following excerpt is just one example of the thought provoking writing within this book that I found on page 251:
Reading the paper Daniel mused, "Did you hear the government has armed the slaves, Zeke? I guess President Davis worries that if they don't fight for us, then they'll probably fight against us. Either way, giving the slaves a chance at freedom is long overdue. Every man, white or black, should be able to fight for his freedom. That's the only reason I'm still fighting. After my boys were killed, I decided that freedom is the only thing worth dying for."

Mary Beth was a local prostitute with the heart of a giant who proved to be an important and very interesting character in this novel. She never turned a blind eye to anyone in their time of need. Mary Beth was well known by the local orphanage as she was always contributing large donations of money. At one point in the novel, in addition to her regular donation she actually supplied new shoes to all of the children. So even though the local women did not approve of Mary Beth because of her profession, she served as a guardian angel to many people in need.

I enjoy learning new historical facts as this book delivered a lot of information. It also showed that good things do happen to those that stand firm in their faith during times of adversity. David Donaldson is the CEO of Impact Missions and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help to support that charity. I would like to give a special thank you to both Paula and Penny from Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for supplying me with a review copy of this book. Overall, I throughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading future work by Grisham and Donaldson.

My Rating: 4/5


Ti said...

Yes another book with a dark cover that catches my eye! Thank you for the review. I saw something about this one but wasn't sure what it was all about.

Ruth King said...

I haven't read many books about the Civil War, but I think I would enjoy this one. Thanks for the excellent review!

Jo-Jo said...

Ti: Yes, another dark cover-It actually reminds me of Cold Mountain. Which rushes memories back of sitting in the theater sobbing!

Ruth: I haven't read many from the Civil War time period either, but it was a nice change for me.

Unknown said...

I haven't read many Civil War stories either, but this one sounds great! Thanks for introducing me to it.

Anonymous said...

I like the cover. It's very intriguing. I'm glad to see in the comments that some people who have never been interested in the Civil War would consider reading this book.
As the author of a Civil War novel, I like to think that fiction has the power to lure readers into wanting to find out more about a historical subject!

Shelly B said...

The Civil War era is one of my faves to read about. The cover reminds me of Drood, mysterious and intriguing at the same time. Thanks for the great review!

Darlene said...

Great review. Another for the wishlist. This one sounds really interesting. I really like the cover too.

Anonymous said...

Sounds fascinating.

Serena said...

I have this book in my TBR pile. your review gives me something to look forward to

Unknown said...

Great review Jo-Jo! The Civil War era is usually not something I would rush to read but this book sounds pretty good.

Toni said...

Nice review. This one really caught my eye!

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