Review: The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams

Title: The Illness Lesson

Author: Clare Beams

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

It is 1871. At the farm of Samuel Hood and his daughter, Caroline, a mysterious flock of red birds has descended. Samuel, whose fame as a philosopher is waning, takes the birds’ appearance as an omen that the time is ripe for his newest venture. He will start a school for young women, guiding their intellectual development as he has so carefully guided his daughter’s. Despite Caroline’s misgivings, Samuel’s vision – revolutionary, as always; noble, as always; full of holes, as always – takes shape.

It’s not long before the students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: rashes, seizures, verbal tics, night wanderings. In desperate, the school turns to the ministering of a sinister physician – just as Caroline’s body, too, begins its betrayal. As the girls’ condition worsens, Caroline must confront the all-male, all-knowing authorities of her world, the ones who insist the voices of the sufferers are unreliable.

Written in intensely vivid prose and brimming with insight, The Illness Lesson is a powerful exploration of women’s bodies, women’s minds and the time-honoured tradition of doubting both.

The Review

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams seemed like my type of book. It was historical fiction at its base but also dealt with other issues. It looked at the sheltered life of women and how they had to conform to man’s whim, it looked at parental control, and it had a mystery element to it.

And it was a good story. I enjoyed it. It did take a while for me to get into the story but once I was in it I really enjoyed it but more for the feminist elements.

The Illness Lesson is a good read and for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams is available now.

For more information regarding Clare Beams (@clarebeams) please visit

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit


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