In 1863, Alabama native Dr. Joseph Bryarly reluctantly accepts an invitation from a family friend, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, to leave his post at London’s notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital to become Chief Superintendent of Wingate Asylum in Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, young Zeke Gibson gleefully joins the Army of Northern Virginia, where he is reunited with his older brother, Billy, a corporal. The Battle of Gettysburg, however, soon sends the Gibson brothers in separate directions, while nightmare-plagued Joseph finds that he has exchanged the living hell of London’s Bedlam for that of Richmond’s Bedlam South.
Co-written by childhood friends who utilized the novel to blend their interests in psychology and the Civil War, Bedlam South has all of the elements of a wartime epic as it moves with ease between battlefields, the asylum, gracious and humble homes, prisons, bordellos, and city streets, with episodes that show its men and women at their worst–and at their best. It’s a fast-paced and well-plotted story, with a varied and large cast of characters, sympathetic and complex protagonists, a couple of romances, and some staggering coincidences. I recommend it highly.