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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 uickly develops a passion for him a passion which consumes herAs 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


10 thoughts on “The Madness

  1. says:

    Alison Rattle’s debut novel was The uietness which I absolutely loved so I was excited to read this her second novel which I chose as my seventh book from June 2014 – Chrissi Cupboard Month As well as the stunning cover art which took my breath away the story inside is both beautiful and poignant Set in early Victorian times it follows the life of our main character a sixteen year old girl called Marnie who was crippled from an early age by infection with the polio virus Marnie is determined for her disability not to ruin her life and works long and hard hours both in and outside of her house to make herself as strong as possible Her mother is renowned in their small village by the sea as being a “dipper” in other words helping other women mostly the rich and frail to bathe in the sea in order to absorb the healing properties that it was believed to offer Marnie herself was “dipped” in the water by her mother on a regular basis in the hope that it would cure her affliction and as a result she develops an intense bond with the sea which appears at times to be her only comfortOne day the wealthy Lady de Clevedon arrives in the town specifically to attempt sea bathing as she is constantly unwell and very weak In tow is her son Noah whom when he meets Marnie is fascinated by her free and daring personality and the two soon become good friends Noah’s father meanwhile lays out his plans for the building of a pier in Clevedon which he assures the town will bring entertainment and prosperity It’s not such good news for Marnie’s mother though as the dippers are unable to work while the pier is being built She channels her energies instead into providing a laundrette service with poor Marnie doing most of the laundering Marnie is not discouraged however as she begins to meet Noah late at night by the sea encouraging him to bathe and learn to swim step by step Unfortunately for Marnie she is beginning to develop stronger feelings for Noah that go beyond the realms of friendship and is often puzzled by the mixed messages Noah gives her in return A few times Noah would sneak her up to the Manor where they would have hot drinks and play like children but Noah is afraid of them making too much noise and is very reluctant to introduce her to his familyThe story really starts to pick up pace when Noah has to return to London with his mother Even though he shared an intimate moment with Marnie just before he left he is excited to return to society and see one girl in particular – of his own class of course I found myself suirming with unhappiness for Marnie as her feelings for Noah increase in intensity becoming a sort of obsession While he is gone she concocts elaborate fantasies in her head where they are together living at the Manor never having to launder anything again Of course you might be able to see where it’s going but I really don’t want to spoil anything as I feel the beauty of the story and the writing comes across when you read it for yourself At times I almost felt like an eavesdropper on a private moment as the emotions Marnie goes through are played out across the pages with no holds barred I also found Marnie’s relationship with her mother very interesting as it didn’t seem to be anywhere near a conventional motherdaughter bond – in fact it was employerservant in my opinion By the end of the novel Marnie takes some uite drastic actions which make the novel utterly un putdownable but because the reader has gone through so much with Marnie we can almost understand her choices while not condoning them This story is truly beautiful and haunting with a bit of darkness added that makes for an utterly compelling read Beware – don’t read this book if you have any other tasks to complete because you won’t get them donePlease see my full review at


  2. says:

    Review by Beth 455I didn’t have the pleasure of reading Allison Rattle’s The uietness but fell head over heels in love with Marnie and her life in Clevedon This book is sad it’s sadder than sad and every inch of that sadness is beautifully created by Rattle’s choice of languageI defy anyone not to love Marnie’s character She seems younger than her sixteen years due to her lack of education and life on the beach with only her mum and her mum’s ‘friend’ for company She lives with her disability but is still relied upon to get involved with the dipping work and since contracting polio and being left disabled the sea has been a lifeline for herThe scenes where Marnie is in the sea are extremely powerful it’s almost possible to believe she belongs there Her mother is a dipper making her living by dipping people into the sea water with the belief that the water will cure any ailments and restore health Through helping her mother at work Marnie encounters Noah the Lord of the Manor’s son Whilst she initially avoids him soon she finds herself drawn closer and closer to him but as her infatuation grows it’s clear Noah is just interested in a bit of funThere is no way this story would end well and with all her naivety and innocence it’s hard not to feel deeply for Marnie as she truly cannot forget about or give up the idea that she and Marnie will be together As and goes wrong for her the she invests in Noah’s returnThe narrative splits between Marnie’s scenes where we watch her story play out and extracts from Noah’s diary where we can already pre empt what is going to happen next tragically in many cases for MarnieThe period is written perfectly I truly felt like we were in a 19th century seaside town and Rattle consistently ensures this scene is packed full of rich historical detail I truly fell in love with the story and didn’t want it to end especially as it did


  3. says:

    I have never read anything uite like this before This story rippled my interest because it was such a unsual story I must say The Madness is literally unputdownable Alison Rattle fabulous descriptions of Marine's frock and Noah's silk white stockings were an added bonus of detail Alison has painted such a convincing picture of the sea and the shabby little house that Marnie lives in to the very grand manor that Noah stays in It shines bright and clear that Alison Rattle is a perfectionist for detail The story is set in Somersetshire 1868 in a seaside village that is framed for its sea cures Marnie's ma is a dipper who dipped Marnie into the sea from such a young age to help her crippled daughter that has polio that now she swims in the sea like a mermaid Rich ladies from all over London pay Marnie's ma good money to be dipped believing that they will be cured A very rich Lady de Clevedon and her son Noah arrive to Somersetshire and stay in a beautiful grand manor Lady de Clevedon pays good money to be dipped by Marnie's Ma in hope that she will be cured Marnie and Noah strike up a friendship with Marnie thinking that her life will change now she has met Noah As the story adapts it shapes into so much that it would be a shame to reveal all This is a story that holds a flow of sorrowfulness but a joy to read I hope many readers will take the opportunity to read The Madness I do hope that all readers will enjoy reading this delightful story as much as I have


  4. says:

    An interesting and sad tale about obsession set in Clevedon a small seaside resort in Somerset Marnie a young local girl meets Noah the son of a prominent and prosperous business man and finds herself feeling a dangerous attraction for him which leads to the madness of the titleI found the Victorian setting and the historical information with regard to bathing huts and 'dippers' fascinating A 'dipper' is someone who helps wealthy ladies submerge themselves in the sea mostly for health reasons I also enjoyed reading about the building of Clevedon Pier Such was my curiosity that I decided to find out via the internet Reading fiction can definitely be educationalAs to the story I found it a dark and tragic one I did not particularly like either of the main characters I wanted to shake some sense into them both The latter part of the book had a feeling of 'Fatal Attraction' about it; Marnie was somewhat of a 'bunny boiler' It portrayed Marnie's fixation very well and at times I was actually cringing to find out what happened nextThe descriptions of the sea and the town itself were very realistic The whole story was atmospherically and vividly told so much so that I could picture it perfectly in my mind An intriguing and thought provoking read which had me anxiously turning the pagesRead and reviewed for Lovereadingcouk


  5. says:

    This author has yet to write a book with a happy ending


  6. says:

    Every single person in this book was an asshole but I give it 4 solid stars anywayI loved the setting Clevedon is a real place and the Pier is real and really was made in 1869 so those atmospheric touches really added to the enjoyment of reading I had a hard time imagining the clothes though even with Googling and seeing those creepy wasp waist illustrations where the woman's waist is pinched in the middle and then sausages out like a deformity How the hell did that ever become fashion?? I just couldn't really imagine it well More descriptions could have helpedAlso speaking of atmosphere I highly recommend reading this while playing ocean wave sounds in the backgroundAnyway what I really liked about the book I'll put in a spoiler below but I just wanted to address some misinformation from other reviews first Some readers implied that Noah the twat that Marnie was infatuated with had set out to deliberately and cruelly manipulate and toy with her emotions out of boredom which technically is true However it wasn't because he literally wanted to hurt her and laugh at her it was so because he was a dumb naive gullible clueless dumbshit who's head was wedged so far up his privileged ass that he really couldn't see Marnie as an actual human with actual problems He never offered her money or food or a better paying job or anything else a friend would offer another friend especially considering the social and financial divide between them AND her disability Even when she came to him with worries about inappropriate attention from an unwanted suitor he just brushed it off because his own dick wasn't involved in the narrative He spent the entire book viewing Marnie first as an amusement and then as a bother but never as a human He led her on without even realizing it and refused to give her closure the dozens of times she begged for it with her presence and letters I can see a viable defense for 'Well what do you expect? He's stupid and selfish but most of all inexperienced' but the lack of empathy he had for her was nauseating The whole mentality of 'well I uietly mumbled for her to leave me alone while rushing away from her in a noisy crowded area so i hope everything will be okay now' was mind boggling in it's naivete but also in his self centeredness Only HIS feelings matter her feelings don't even exist So to me Noah De Clevedon is pure trashAnyway on to spoilers view spoilerAs far as I'm concerned everyone in the book was a villain in their own way down to Noah's mother who's described as a weak frail delicate little thing who will crumple up into dust if you look at her too hard And I realize that porcelain doll aesthetic was in back then but there's something about a person who sucks up the life of everyone around them because of their illness that rubs me the wrong way Her son maid and staff were stranded in that estate for a long stretch of time while she recuperated from a legitimate physical trauma so it's not a case of 'I'm bored and I'm going to be a drama ueen so people pay attention to me' but all she had to do was let her son invite some friends along It would have given the staff something to do except monitor her every fart and sigh and it would have prevented this book from basically even being writtenAnyway she's a non issue don't know why I even wasted a paragraph about her I guess to display the self centeredness of even the most minor characters in the book The townspeople are assholes to Marnie because of her polio leg her mom is an asshole refusing to tell her who her father is I mean make up a damned lie if it will make Marnie happy tell her he died in a fishing accident Will it kill you to give her some relief to her curiosity?? She forcible pushed Marnie towards a very creepy man who wants to marry her despite Marnie's protests and that was my biggest problem with Ma I get it that finding Marnie a husband with that polio leg would be hard especially given the ignorance of the era but is the better alternative to have your daughter be raped for the rest of her life and be imprisoned to a man she's repulsed by?Anyway it's not worth it to spoiler every character and ruin the story for you I just wanted to get to the part where I really felt this book was worth the extremely elusive 4 star rating That suitor I mentioned above appears around the middle of the book and he spent uite a few chapters irking me and Marnie and making me wish fictional hell upon him But I really loved the juxtaposing of his story and Marnie's because as Marnie's story progressed she slowly but surely became him Won't take no for an answer You'll be mine whether you like it or not I'll make you love me by force if necessary Gave me chills Not sure if it was intentional or not but I think this author is pretty smart so I'm gonna go with intentionalAnyway if you don't mind a downer ending and enjoy Victorian England books beyond Austen and Bronte enjoy uniue settings and characters and don't mind the male lead speakingwriting in the most pretentious 'did they really speak that way back then?' style then give this a tryI would also say Marnie is pretty realistic I've known girls in high school even college who went the 'BUT I'M PREGNANT' route the moment a one night stand or NSA hook up didn't go their way And especially in middle school some girls develop these kinds of delusional obsessive crushes not only on real boys but also celebrities One really scary case was a classmate who was convinced Jason Priestly from Beverly Hills 90210 was communicating to her through the colors of his T shirts and through magazine articles She had a special binder with his photos all over it where she kept a list of all the evidence It was surreal So another reason for the 4 stars is that I felt this author was able to portray these delusions uite realistically and without going over the top or making fun Because we have to remember these people have a mental illness and usually little or zero support from the people around them they are not choosing to be this way so mocking them just makes you an asshole and a part of the problemAnyway enjoy this book and remember the ocean sounds in the background hide spoiler


  7. says:

    My review is on my blog


  8. says:

    I think this is the part where I declare my undying love for Alison Rattle’s writing I didn’t think she could top The uietness but she has The Madness is a terrific piece of work It’s an unusual story but unusual in a good way It stands out against other books in the genre I loved how the narrative splits between Marnie and extracts from Noah’s diary I thought this was really effective I could just see what was going to happen to poor Marnie I fell in love with Marnie She comes across as a lot younger than her age because of her lack of education and lifestyle Marnie lives with a disability Her leg was crippled following polio Yet Marnie doesn’t let it stop her from enjoying the water Marnie’s mother is a dipper She believes that a dip in the sea can cure anyone of ailments Marnie helps her mother with the business I think some of the strongest scenes in this book were ones when Marnie was in the sea She really came to life out there She belonged in the sea The sea brings Marnie to Noah Noah is the Lord of the Manor’s son He is in a completely different class to Marnie Yet they both find themselves drawn to one another Marnie teaches Noah about the sea With each time spent with Noah Marnie becomes even infatuated by him Perhaps too infatuated? I’ll let you read and seeI think I knew throughout that this was going to be a sad story From the way the people treated Marnie even her own mother and Marnie falling for an upper class gentlemen there was no way that this would end well Marnie is so innocent too so trusting I don’t see how anyone that reads this book could hate her I just felt for her and wanted to take away her painI can’t recommend this book enough The writing is beautiful and sets the scene so wonderfully I really felt transported to a 19th Century beach town


  9. says:

    Loved A little slow in the middle but otherwise so compelling and well written view spoilerAnd sad hide spoiler


  10. says:

    Lively book and I really enjoyed it Marnie Gunn 14 whose life has been impinged by her contraction of polio when she was 5 years old is a growing teenager with hopes of one day becoming a 'dipper' just like her Ma Ma and Marnie live with Ma's somewhat partner and boss Smoaker who owns the business of the Bathing Machines in a scenic seaside village of Clevedon Marnie doesn't know who her father was and Ma wasn't saying so that caused Marnie to have not only a lot of uestions but an insecurity about who she really is and where she belongs Marnie had an imagination she put to good use dreaming and totally believing that her Pa was somewhere out to sea in a fishing boat and that he'd come home to meet her one day Ma had persuaded Marnie to swim in the sea to strengthen her twisted foot and over the years Marnie hoped that one day the sea would straighten it all out for her and she could be a normal village girl like the others and wouldn't get teased or ridiculed One day the local gentry from the manor came down to the sea for sickly Lady De Clevedon to take the sea cures and there also tallying along with the footmen and maids was her 17 year old son Noah Noah and Marnie struck up a friendship and each time Lady D came for her sea cures Noah came along too One day a dreadful drowning happened when Marnie was out swimmingher neighbours young son who never swam had followed her down to the sea and while Marnie was swimming around past the rocks Ambrose went into the sea and drowned Alas Marnie got blamed for it despite not having had anything to do with it so Ma banned her from her one true love swimming in the sea After some time away from the sea Marnie got an idea that she could sneak out at night when Ma and Smoaker had gone to bed for the night Marnie would sneak out and go to swim in the ocean Then there is the pier being built by a company owned by Noah's father which brings them together again at night where Marnie teaches Noah to swimWell the story heats up from there and has twists and turns and the ending is unexpected but the book is certainly a good read