In 1860s London, Arthur sees his wife, Emily, suddenly struck down by a pain for which she can find no words, forced to endure harmful treatments and reliant on him for guidance. Meanwhile, in contemporary Perth, Alice, a writer, and her older husband, Duncan, find their marriage threatened as Alice investigates the history of hysteria, female sexuality and the treatment of the female body – her own and the bodies of those who came before.
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In Victorian London, Arthur Rochdale’s wife Emily is struck down by a pain for which she can find no words. In desperation, Arthur seeks the aid of Isaac Baker Brown and contemplates the surgeon’s terrifying treatment for ‘hysterical’ women at his London Surgical Home.
Almost 150 years later, writer and academic Alice Tennant explores the history of hysteria to make sense of her own mystifying and private pain. Although she has direct access to a medical profession that should be able to help her, it seems that little has changed since 1866.
Circling ever closer to Arthur and Emily’s story, Alice begins to question her own life and marriage. With understanding comes the discovery of the possibilities of creativity – and a newfound knowledge of self that will change the course of Alice’s life.