Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum by Mark StevensHistory
I bought this book because it sounded so fascinating. A Victorian lunatic asylum? It must be full of amazing stories of crazy people, right? Yes, I bought it solely for the 'circus freak' aspect, which I know is wrong but so tempting. History is full of these fascinating stories and I hoped this was one more example.
Alas, this book is not that kind of history book. This one would be at home in a dusty museum or dry lecture hall. It just didn't come alive for me. I found it a labor to finish. It was just that boring. And, I'm a history freak so that's saying a lot.
There were some parts of the book that did capture my interest. I did like the parts about the 'lunatics' who escaped. Most simply just walked away or jumped over the fence the stories of how they were recaptured were really interesting. I was also quite intrigued by the five stories of the women who were incarcerated and then gave birth in the asylum, turning many of their children into wards and orphans. So sad. The criminal justice system in Victorian England was very interesting, too. Such a corrupt, backward system! The most famous patient, and interesting case, was that of Edward Oxford who took a shot at Queen Victoria and was incarcerated there for the rest of his life. Also fascinating was the story of Christiana Edmunds, the 'Chocolate Cream Poisoner'.
What I loved about the book was that it depicted the history and lives of individuals that might otherwise be lost to time. I just wished the writing style were a bit more exciting.