The Lost Melody by Joanna Davidson Politano
Wrongfully confined to a Victorian mental asylum, a former concert pianist desperately tries to convince someone she's not mad!
After her father's death, concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant is shocked when his solicitor informs her that as his only heir, she was the guardian of one Rosamund Swansea, a patient of the Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum. Vivienne didn't know anything about the woman, but her father had been paying for her stay at the institution for years. Wanting to learn more about her ward, she contacts the asylum only to be told there was no patient by that name there, nor had there ever been one.
The reply had come too quickly and glibly for Vivienne to accept as a simple mistake; she felt something was 'off.' In addition, there was that long history of payments to the asylum that they denied receiving. Having enough money to make ends meet had been a struggle for her father, but the solicitor claimed he'd never been late or missed paying the Hurstwell bill. With no other ideas on how to discover the truth about Rose, Vivienne goes undercover as an aid at the asylum. But when her questions and snooping attract the attention of Hurstwell's superintendent, Dr. Thornhill, a man she thinks is teetering on the edge of sanity himself, she ends up drugged and confined as a patient, with no way to get help from her friends on the outside.
The Lost Melody was a dark yet exciting historical Christian fiction novel about mental health care and treatment during the 1800s. The asylum storyline and setting are the stuff of nightmares: a creaking old building situated on the edge of the moors, barred doors and windows, hidden passageways, dimly-lit wards with confused and suffering patients, a crumbling tower off-limits to staff, all within view of a well-populated cemetery on the grounds. The main character must even hide in a morgue at one point!
When the story opens, Vivienne is relieved by her father's death; he'd been something of a tyrant. She's an angry young woman, and with good reason. Her father had been an abusive and harsh autocrat, taking the parenting style of the time to an extreme. She's just gotten out from under his thumb only to discover she's got a manager with an agenda that doesn't align with her own. This dissonance led to a gripping novel filled with plot twists and shocking surprises that kept me turning the pages to find out how it would turn out.
The author uses light and dark imagery throughout the story with beautiful results. Within the asylum setting, hope struggles with hopelessness, and dark, gaslit corridors are juxtaposed with the chandelier-bright conservatory. Candles and matches are Vivienne's only items within her control. Light and dark even plays a role in characterization, with some representing light and others darkness while still others actively suck the very light out of the lives of those left to disappear into the asylum.
With its gripping plot, superb storytelling, and sympathetic and engaging characters, I recommend THE LOST MELODY to readers of historical fiction, especially those who are interested in Victorian-era asylums, the treatment and care of mental health patients in the 1800s, and the beginnings of music therapy in mental health settings.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Book Blog Tours.