Filled with lyrical descriptions and fascinating characters, Kate Hepinstall’s Blue Asylum tells the story of Iris Dunleavy, a plantation owner’s wife who is convicted of being a “lunatic” and is sent to an asylum in Florida during the Civil War. There she encounters a group of vivid characters, including both residents and staff of the asylum. Iris meets Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier haunted by his experiences in the war. As her story unfolds, Iris reveals the circumstances under which she was convicted. As she fights to retain her independence, her strength and spirit confuses the asylum doctor and their disagreements reflect the conflicts in the war surrounding the idyllic asylum. As she begins to love Ambrose and hopes for a life outside the asylum, Iris wonders if they can ever be free of their pasts. This is a story about ordinary people caught up in the terrible effects of the Civil War. The poetical style, an unusual setting, and rich details combine to make Blue Asylum an exceptional novel.