Author: Cat Winters
Olivia Mead is living in a time of change. It is 1900 and the women’s suffrage movement is gaining steam across the states. But for Olivia, the dream of voting one day is made difficult by her father, who wishes to stanch the wayward passions of his daughter. When the young and talented hypnotist Henri Reverie arrives in town, bewitching audiences, Olivia’s father offers him a job to hypnotize his daughter into accepting what the proper place for a woman is. When Olivia awakens from the trance, she is horrified to discover that the hypnosis has gone awry and she now sees the true intentions of people, manifested through both horrific and beautiful visions.
“The brute’s red eyes gleamed bright and dangerous, and his skin went deathly pale and thin enough to reveal the jutting curves of the facial skeleton beneath his flesh.”
Cat Winters masterfully builds a captivating setting in the first chapter of The Cure for Dreaming that left me completely emerged in its pages. The gloomy atmosphere of the stage performance by Henri Reverie accompanied by a grim rendition of Danse Macabre and the enigmatic entrance of the hypnotist filled me with wistful anticipation. The Cure for Dreaming makes many references to the Gothic novel Dracula and even though I haven’t read it myself, I feel very much compelled to now.
Women’s suffrage plays a major role in constructing the setting of the novel and the characters’ motives. Though a large portion of society frowns upon the voting rights of women, Olivia’s main antagonist in this respect is her father. Dr. Walter Mead, a dentist by profession and a bit of an oddity because of it, would like nothing more than to extract his daughter’s rebellion like a rotted tooth (please note that if you are uniquely sensitive to the specifics of dentistry, you might want to skip this book as there are a couple of scene that can be described as graphic). Irrationally paranoid by his daughter’s support for women’s suffrage, he asks, “Do you ever harbor urges to commit violent acts against men?” This nicely summarizes the state of mind many of those opposed to women’s suffrage had, it is an attack on men rather than an acknowledgement of the equality of the sexes.
Our protagonist Olivia isn’t particularly outspoken and many characters remark on her timidity, but this doesn’t mean that she lacks opinions or conviction. Under challenging circumstance, Olivia finds her voice and the courage to let go of the people holding her back. I really enjoyed The Cure for Dreaming and the various historical photos, advertisements, and quotes accompanying the book gave me a greater appreciation for the obstacles the women of the time had to overcome.