Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: The Madness
Author: Alison Rattle
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: 6 March 2014
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

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 quickly develops a passion for him – a passion which consumes her.

As 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.


I didn’t have the pleasure of reading Allison Rattle’s The Quietness 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 language.

I 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 her.

The 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 fun.

There 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 more and more goes wrong for her, the more she invests in Noah’s return.

The 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 Marnie.

The 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.