Set in London during one September week in 1906, Brooks Hansen’s third novel charts the struggle of hypnotist Dr. August Perlman’s battle to save Sylvia Blum, an hysterical teenager brought to his office. It appears that another girl’s personality is living inside her, and if Perlman cannot treat it, it may pose a threat to Perlman’s reputation of always curing his patients through his pioneering treatment of “clinical suggestion.” As the girl’s other personality becomes stronger, she begins telling an astonishing story resembling the great myth of Atlantis. Is the girl truly a reincarnated princess or simply an unwell young girl?
Along the way, the great doctor meets and becomes friends with Madame Helena Barrett (spiritualist and, coincidentally, sister of Perlman’s musical idol) who becomes entwined in the unfolding drama of the battle for Blum’s soul.
Hansen magnificently transports readers back almost a century (and beyond) while portraying a monumental struggle between science and art. Portions of both settings are so beautifully written that the readers could almost believe they had dreamed the story themselves. Although the book is set in Edwardian London, a major portion of the action takes place in the world created by Blum’s other personality. Readers searching for an Edwardian story may find this fact frustrating; but for anyone wishing to take a flight of fancy and explore the what-ifs of mythology will be pleased. Anyone craving an all-around great read would also be happy escaping into Brooks Hansen’s Perlman’s Ordeal.