Seventeen-year-old Olivia Mead is a headstrong young lady living in Portland, Oregon in the year 1900. Women of this period were expected to be silent, docile, and nurturing, without a voice in government or much say at all as to what goes on around them. The suffrage movement is in full swing and Olivia stands firmly on that side of the camp, very much in favor of women's rights, and very much in opposition to her overly domineering father.
Dear old dad—the local dentist who strikes fear in the local community by inflicting pain on his patients with his myriad dental torture devices—decides to have the rebelliousness hypnotized right out of Olivia by Henri Reverie, the intriguing young hypnotist who's recently come to town. But what Henri gives to Olivia isn't necessarily quite what the doctor ordered. Instead he gives her the gift to see the world as it really is, and see people's true natures. Suddenly, Olivia is seeing things she shouldn't—ordinary people who now look like vampires or fiends, women in cages, brilliant lights like halos around certain individuals—and the visions she's having only make her all the more determined to speak her mind.
This was a fascinating story, vividly real and overflowing with the atmosphere of a significant turning point in American history. It really opened my eyes to the suffragist movement taking place during this time as it was a subject I knew very little about, and of which I remembered next to nothing from my high school and college studies. I've discovered that I do much better remembering historical facts—dates, times, location, important people—when said facts have a story surrounding them. Dull, dry facts taken in alone readily vacate my mind, while weaving a story around them allows them to linger. The mind is an amazing thing—the way certain brains only retain knowledge for the long term when taken in in a particular way. I've experienced this over and over again through various other novels that take place during significant periods in time—95% of them have actually been among the best books I've read, current title definitely included.