The Illness Lesson

Author Claire BeamsA deftly written debut in the style of Dickens, Waugh, and Alcott, this is the harrowing tale of young girls at a progressive boarding school who are caught up in feelings that are labelled hysteria and treated in an unorthodox method by a medical doctor brought in by the headmaster without the consent of their parents.

Told from the perspective of the young female teacher whose father runs the school, its themes of misogyny, power, and psychological trauma are, in a strange way, a counterpoint to Little Women, which also occurs in late 19th century New England.

I was reminded of the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock which I saw years ago and has haunted me ever since.

The author leaves open-ended what exactly caused the troubles at the school, preferring instead to let the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Book cover: The Illness Lesson