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Prairie Fire

Mad Richard by Lesley Krueger

Review published November 1, 2017

Lesley Krueger—A distant relative of the Victorian era painter Richard Dadd— creates a generous and thoughtful portrait of the once-promising artist’s descent into madness, murder, and imprisonment in London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital’s psychiatric facility, infamously known as Bedlam.

Dadd is not the only artist to feature in Mad Richard; the novel begins in 1853 with a visit to Bedlam by writer Charlotte Bronte. She is trying to determine the subject of her next book and is considering writing a social novel along the lines of the work of her contemporary, Charles Dickens, who makes several important cameos in Mad Richard. For inspiration, she decides to tour Bedlam and meet Richard. While their meeting is brief and the only point of their contact in the book, the novel goes on to tell their stories in tandem—Richard’s by recounting his youth and past experiences that have brought him to his present and tragic condition, and Charlotte’s by imagining her life as a celebrated mid-career novelist, an unmarried woman approaching forty, and someone very uncertain about what the future holds for her.

Read the full review here.








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