Gabriella Mondini is a brilliant young woman who possesses something rare in the Venice of 1590: the access, learning, and intuition to become a doctor. Her entrée to this profession is provided by her father, himself a renowned physician. In return she helps him research his magnum opus, a vast, encyclopedic work called The Book of Diseases, recording how the water of rue lends second sight, how the manifestations of solar madness arise, and how the horn of the unicorn cures lack of desire.
In her own practice, Gabriella has honed her natural ingenuity in administering to the women eager to be her patients. Then Gabriella's father mysteriously disappears. Without him to vouch for her, Gabriella is banished from the guild of physicians. To pursue her life's calling, Gabriella must find her father and bring him back. With two trusted servants she sets out across Europe, following clues from her father's enigmatic letters. Has he been gripped by madness or seized by some shattering medical discovery?
Gabriella crosses the mountains of Switzerland and the wilds of Germania; she meets with the greatest medical minds of Europe in Padua, Leiden, Edenburg; she traces him through strange and forbidding cities, all the way to the spice-scented streets of Morocco. With each step, she expands her own fluency in healing. By the end of her search, Gabriella will encounter the hidden truths of her family and unfold the deepest mysteries within herself.
Layered with medical lore and vivid details of Renaissance life, The Book of Madness and Cures spirals through a remarkable period of cultural turmoil and astonishing discoveries in science and art: an intoxicating and unforgettable debut.