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.
I read The Cure for Dreaming all in one sitting! So that’s good. I love it when that happens. Makes me feel productive, and also kinda bloated. Like eating too much chocolate all at once.
Yay suffragists! Yay Portland! Yay hypnotism? Yay a little bit of romance but nothing too overwhelming, so no worries if you don’t like that sort of thing!
Downsides: I know people were legit anti-women legislation back in the day (and, okay, today), and it’s important to have that information in the story because it informs a lot of the character and her choices. BUT the way it was done was hardcore unsubtle.
A lot of the exposition was through dialogue, which felt clunky. I think showing how people are oppressed is more effective when you do it through actions/the setting. Like, Olivia’s dad is a terrible person and we can see that by how he treats her; we don’t ALSO need three pages of him ranting about woman’s proper place in society on top of that. Y’know?1
I also wish we’d also gotten more Portland-ness in it. To compare it to another historical fantasy book, Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century books are partly set in Portland (albeit a few decades before The Cure for Dreaming), and there’s tons of Portland flavor despite the zombie apocalypse. The Cure for Dreaming could be set anywhere where women weren’t allowed to vote, and it wouldn’t have really made a difference. Disappointing.
Still, I had a fun time! I loved the little paranormal touches. I loved how spooky the world looked after Olivia’s vision changed. I loved the characters and the many references to Dracula and other popular books of the time and basically everything except the aforementioned problems.
It takes a special kind of book to keep me reading, even when I don’t particularly like certain aspects of the writing style! The Cure for Dreaming is spooky and exciting, and I look forward to trying out Cat Winter’s next few books.
Read: August 30, 2014
- Plus, I also don’t understand why he sent her to a liberal, co-ed high school in the first place if he was so against women’s education? ↩