This is my 'pitch' for 'MAD WORLDS:A tale of Despair and Hope in 1950's England'.
This 80,000-word novel, set in 1950’s England, has two main characters:
Young teacher John – haunted by past tragedy, believing his wife no longer loves him, and stressed to near-breakdown - is forcibly taken to a harsh mental institution, Springwell, where he is certified and detained indefinitely. There he endures, and witnesses, abuses – some in the name of treatment – and meets fascinating eccentric folk. Suicidal at times, he determines to survive and escape.
His wife Heather, who has recently come through a post-natal depression, is bereft and distraught. While pining for John, she sees her priority as ensuring their infant child is properly cared for, and rallies support from neighbours and her parents. Horrified, on visiting, by the conditions in which John seems hopelessly trapped, and encountering his hostility, she is vulnerable to romantic overture.
Other significant characters, through whom parts of the tale are told, are:
Newman, the local authority Mental Health Officer who is required to tackle challenging emergency situations, gets John certified and removed to Springwell, and lusts after Heather;
Parker, an ambitious and sadistic Charge Nurse who sees patients as madmen to be coerced, targets John for abuse, and at one point tries to seduce Heather;
Macdonald, who emerges latterly as the new Medical Superintendent, driven by personal experience and ideals to improve the lot of mentally ill people, and bring about radical change in Springwell – a process that brings hope for John.
The main action is in 1956-7, with Part 1 ‘Despair’ and Part 2 ‘Hope’. The 1938 Prologue shows John experiencing tragic loss, a 1932 Prologue to Part 2 introduces the teenage Macdonald at a critical time in his life, and in the 1962 epilogue, John reflects on his experiences and other characters he’s met via Springwell.
The reader will see dramatic and realistic happenings. And the tale raises issues of perennial importance in mental health, relationships and loss.