Book Review: The Madness by Alison Rattle

Published March 2014 by Hot Key Books.

18482292Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and become a ‘dipper’, escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him – a passion which consumes her.

As Marnie’s infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy. Set in the early Victorian era when propriety, modesty and repression were the rule, this is a taut psychological drama in which the breakdown of a young woman’s emotional state will have a devastating impact on all those around her.

My Review: The Madness was a really haunting, fascinating read. From page one, I was transported to Marnie’s world, and I really loved it. I enjoyed Alison Rattle’s The Quietness last year, so I was really looking forward to her next YA book. I’m really happy it didn’t disappoint!

At first, The Madness seemed just like a historical romance novel (which it is, but, well, it’s much darker as well!). The love story develops well throughout the book, and it all seems quite sweet, until you get to certain points from Noah’s perspective that make you rethink everything you assumed about his feelings for Marnie. The last part of the book was pretty terrifying! Marnie begins to go mad, her thoughts entirely about Noah, and the ending was completely gripping.

Marnie is loveable. She lives by the sea with her Ma and Smoaker, and her Ma runs the famed Sea Cure- which consists of dipping ill women into the water to cure them. She’s disliked by all of the town, because of a certain (scary!) incident that happened and because of her leg, meaning she has to limp. I found it really easy to understand her. Alison Rattle is talented at crafting characters that are really easy to love and that stay in your head long after you finish the book- as also shown in her YA debut.

Told from different perspectives- through third person and Noah’s diary entries, I got a really good insight into both of their personalities. The story seemed very tense all of the way through, and I was completely absorbed! One thing that did confuse me quite a lot, though, is that in the first part of the book, the story is in one person, then that switches to another for the second and final part. I think I understand why that was done, because it really gets inside Marnie’s head as her obsession takes over, but it did take me quite a while to get used to as the language is very different compared to the more formal third person that part one of the book is told in.

Overall, The Madness is a really memorable, haunting but also powerful read. I thought that Alison Rattle’s debut YA novel was pretty dark… but this one is darker in quite a few ways! I think it’ll be big for adult readers as well as YA ones. The characters were so well developed, and so was the setting- I could visualise everything really well and I was left thinking about that ending long after the last page. The only reason that I disliked the book a little is because of the writing style change. It was a good idea, but at the same time, it does take a lot of getting used to and confused me a bit. Really recommended, though, to fans of historical fiction and romance!

My Rating:


I received a copy of The Madness from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Madness by Alison Rattle

  1. Lucy @ Queen of Contemporary

    I got to hear Alison talk at an event on Saturday and am really looking forward to reading this now. It does sound really good, and I love historical fiction!

    You’ve convinced me even more now! Brilliant review, Georgia!


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