1897: Isabella Trent is found murdered in a Fremantle asylum cell. Why did she die? Who is the killer? What is the meaning of the ornate motifs that she has secretly embroidered on a man’s frock coat? And who, really, is Isabella?
Years earlier, young Lucy Malpass leaves her home in Staffordshire for London, where she is drawn into a community of artists and socialists around William Morris and his family. Before long there is not only a prospect of fulfilling work but also a glimpse of reciprocal passion. Then her high hopes gradually begin to unravel.
There seems to be a link between Lucy and Isabella, related in some way to an old Icelandic tale. But what exactly is this link, and what can it explain about their closely held secrets?
The Madwoman’s Coat is a story of love and grief, artistry and insanity, acts of sudden transgression and moments of quiet contemplation.
Publication date: March 2021 RRP: $24.99
Publisher: Framework Press, www.frameworkpress.com.au
ISBN: 9780648522324 (pbk); 9780648522331 (ebk)
Australian trade distributor: John Reed Books, Sydney
“The prose contains all the moral questioning and conundrums that have become the hallmark of this author’s works and is not unlike embroidery itself in its twists, knots and flourishes…. This novel is a thought-proving examination of a woman who was a victim not just of her own failings, but also her time and place.” — Historical Novel Review
“In The Madwoman’s Coat Ian Reid consolidates his reputation for absorbing historical fiction. Reid draws imaginatively from the history of late nineteenth-century England and Western Australia, and from old Icelandic mythology, to create a fast-paced narrative that explores gender and class, love and insanity.” — WritingWA
For a selection of further responses to The Madwoman’s Coat, see this blog post.