We RATS have been reading historical fiction lately and I decided that I should wrench myself out of medieval England and read something different. I came across The Women of Magdalene by Rosemary Poole-Carter set in post Civil War Lousiana. Certainly something different. It involves a young doctor, estranged from his family, who is walking to Magdalene, an asylum for women, to take a position as the house doctor. He has been given the job as a favor from one of his father’s former colleagues. On the way he finds the body of a woman in a creek. She is one of the inmates and he arrives carrying her body and thus begins his career at Magdalene. Sounds odd–and depressing, but what a beautifully written book it turned out to be. The prose is very evocative and has a melancholy, almost sepia quality like a worn, antique photograph. It reminded me of a short film I saw long ago called An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce of the same name. It has almost the same rhythm, but the ending is less of a jerk and more of a slide to the inevitable. Though racism and the paternalistic almost mysogynistic attitude toward women are themes, they take their place within the context of the whole–touching, moving without being strident. I hope Ms. Poole-Carter will write more. This is only her second book and the first is out of print. I’m waiting for my interloaned copy to come in so I can spend more time in the places she creates.