BOOK CLUB: Eye of a Rook

Born from her own crippling chronic gynaecological pain, Eye of a Rook is both a masterful dual timeline work of historical fiction, and an opportunity for Josephine Taylor to highlight how far the medical profession still needs to go in acknowledging and dealing with unexplained, and often untreatable, chronic conditions.

Those who have experienced chronic pain or illness, with no identifiable cause, will know the frustration and distress of living with something that you are excruciatingly aware of, while the medical profession asserts it’s all in your head.  Friends and partners, at first sympathetic, becoming increasingly distant as their attempts to help produce no improvement and your pain becomes all-encompassing making interaction with others nigh on impossible.

Eye of a Rook follows two women Alice in modern day Perth, and Emily in Victorian London. 

In 2007 after a passionate night of lovemaking Alice awakens with what feels like the beginning of a urinary tract infection. Despite treatment, the pain does not go, and the burning sensation escalates across all of her nether regions.  Initially supportive, her husband Duncan is becoming increasingly distant, even accusing her of not wanting to get better. In desperation, feeling let down by the medical fraternity who seem unable or unwilling to assist her, Alice begins to research what she is experiencing.  As she researches her condition Alice comes across symptoms that seem to match her own. 

A condition that surprisingly seems to be experienced in varying degrees by a significant number of women, and yet one the medical profession seems on the whole to ignore.  Through her research Alice discovers that in the 19th century this condition was referred to as ‘hysteria’ and she is horrified to discover the barbaric way the condition was treated at that time. At this point I should add a trigger warning, Taylor’s description of the medical procedure many women were forced to endure is graphic, chilling, and sadly accurate. 

As part of her way to deal with what is happening to her, Alice decides to tell the story of a woman diagnosed with hysteria in the late 1800s and her medical journey, and so begins the story of Emily and her beau, Arthur.

At first Arthur and Emily enjoy a loving and passionate relationship.  Then one day Emly begins to experience pain on being touched intimately.  Over time the pain grows, until it is there all the time, the slightest movement bringing on searing pain, finding a way to sit, or lie, or walk without pain—impossible. 

In desperation, wishing only to relieve his beloved Emily from the nightmare in which she is living, Arthur consults a doctor recommended by Emily’s father who is also in the medical profession.

As Arthur weighs the heavy decision of what to do to help his beloved wife, Alice finds herself questioning the basis of her marriage to Duncan, who she wants to be and what she wants out of life.

Eye of a Rook brings into sharp focus a hidden condition experienced by too many women, and the difficulties they continue to experience in having the condition correctly diagnosed.  A cynic might suggest that if this was a condition experienced by men extensive research would have occurred in order to facilitate a cure!

Highly recommended.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Eye of a Rood by Josephine Taylor. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

ISBN: 9781925816716Copy courtesy of Fremantle Press

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