Creative Madness (A Book Review)
Title: Mad Richard
Author: Lesley Krueger
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Called the most promising artist of his generation, handsome, modest, and affectionate, Richard Dadd rubbed shoulders with the great luminaries of the Victorian Age. He grew up along the Medway with Charles Dickens and studied at the Royal Academy Schools under the brilliant and eccentric J.M.W. Turner.
Based on Dadd’s tragic true story, Mad Richard follows the young artist as he develops his craft, contemplates the nature of art and fame — as he watches Dickens navigate those tricky waters — and ultimately finds himself imprisoned in Bedlam for murder, committed as criminally insane.
In 1853, Charlotte Brontë — about to publish her third novel, suffering from unrequited love, and herself wrestling with questions about art and artists, class, obsession and romance — visits Richard at Bedlam and finds an unexpected kinship in his feverish mind and his haunting work.
I’m going to start off by saying that this is normally the type of book I devour, historical fiction is my favorite genre. That being said, I was seriously disappointed with this book. Based on the true story of Richard Dadd and his descent into madness, ending with him imprisoned in Bedlam as criminally insane, not knowing if it was genetic or brought on by the nature of fame and art. However, the whole thing came off as disorganized, confusing and scattered. Perhaps it is meant to mimic the thoughts and actions of Richard, but it doesn’t. It just left me feeling confused and often having to backtrack thinking that I missed something, because sometimes the author had the character flashing back to a memory, or worse a memory within a memory without any kind of lead. Which left me feeling frustrated and like the story was missing something vital. Adding to my confusion was the fact that the memories were not always in chronological order.
About my second big issue with this book, was the part regarding Charlotte Bronte, what exactly was going on with that? The connection between her and Richard was not well defined, they only met once, while Richard was in Bedlam and it was very brief. While it was an interesting look at a brief time in Charlotte’s life, I felt it an intrusion into the parts about Richard, lacking any tie to that part of the story. It is my understanding from the summary that it was suppose to show them both trying to navigate the tricky world of fame and art, and I suppose it did, I just felt it was not necessarily done the right way or in fact could have been left out all together, because for me it just muddied the story line, and almost seemed like it was a book on it’s own and not really part of this story. It just did not add to the flow of the story.
While rich in historical detail and accuracy, an important part of historical fiction, in my opinion. This story just came off as dry and dull, reading more like a list of facts then an interesting story. Little to no action, romance or historic events pepper the text, it read more like a non-fiction book, then a story.
This is the first time, I think I have ever given a book a 1 star rating and it hurt, because I generally like all the books I read, I almost didn’t even finish the book. But I hate not finishing, because I always hope it’s about to get better over the next few pages, in this case it didn’t and I struggled to finish it. Overall disappointing. What about you have you ever read a book that you found disappointing? Have you read Mad Richard and disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below.
*I received a digital copy of the book from the publisher via shelfawarness, for the purpose of reviewing. However all thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no other form of compensation.
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