Interpreting historical fiction within a contemporary context - for example, reading Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain
as a commentary on the 1990s, the time in which the book was published - and searching for modern meanings in stories set in the past seems to be a favorite pastime of literary critics. Recreational readers may scoff at such efforts, but scholarly and casual readers alike will welcome Kathy Hepinstall's novel, Blue Asylum
It's ostensibly a love story, but what emerges is an exposé of a nation and culture steeped in the hubris that allowed the legacy of slavery and the denial of basic civil rights to all but white males flourish well into the 20th century.
The novel is set during the American Civil War at a time when women enjoyed few rights, and, not unlike the present state of affairs, the country was caught in the conservative/liberal...
Beyond the Book
In Kathy Hepinstall's Civil War-era novel, Blue Asylum
, Iris Dunleavy is sent to live in the Sanibel Asylum for Lunatics on Sanibel Island, Florida for the "act of defying [her] husband." Though the area is now considered a mecca for lovers of sea shells (SanibelHistory.org estimates that the resident population of about 6000 swells by 20,000 - 30,000 people per week during peak shelling season), it wasn't always such a relaxed place.
It is said that Sanibel Island formed about six thousand years ago. According to the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce, the process was the result of sediment rising from the sea "after being shaped by centuries of storm activity."