Inside the Beautiful Inside by Emily Bullock

The blurb …

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Mutiny on the Bounty – an exploration of love, sanity, suffering and compassion wrapped into the sensual and lyrical tale of one man’s lonely Odyssey. 

Based on the story of James Norris, American Marine and inmate of Bethlem Hospital for the Insane (1800-1815).

When the locks can’t hold James Norris they chain him, and when the chains won’t stay James Norris they fix him to a stake.  But they still can’t take the thoughts out of his head.  

Will James Norris find what he is hunting for? Can he ever sail free?

My review …

Firstly I’d like to thank Emma Dowson at Myriad and Everything With Words publishers for my review copy of this book, the cover is absolutely beautiful. Secondly I’d like to say that I feel completely under qualified to review this book because the author’s writing talent is incredible, but I’ll try my best!

I must admit I was a little unsure after the first chapter whether this book was for me, but by chapter three, after I had become used to the language and writing style I became fully immersed in this dark and heartbreaking story. 

In Deptford 1800 we meet Marine, James Norris who, delirious with a fever, is sent to Bethlem Hospital for the Insane to recover. James is not sent home even when he feels better and comes to believe he must stay in hospital for one year, without incidence, and then he will be released. However, James gets into a fight after being goaded by the ‘keepers’ and he is admitted to the ‘incurables’ cells and thereafter time slips away until James has no idea how long he has been held there.  

The conditions in the cells are absolutely diabolical. Initially he is kept with eighty other men, in dark cells covered in straw with no sanitation and barely any food and water. But the ‘incurables’ are kept in solitary confinement. He is chained to his bed and later chained to a stake. He suffers unimaginable cruelty at the hands of the keepers and the apothecaries of the hospital/prison, but James keeps himself going by dreaming of his love, Ruth, whilst plotting his revenge against a man who betrayed him with his sweetheart.

As time goes by James has to search inside himself to find a better place to remain mentally strong and survive, whilst also fighting his inner demons, and he finds his sanity hanging by a thread.

Bullock’s lyrical writing style is a work of art, I really am in awe of her talent. The verses within the book are beautiful;

‘I’ve left footprints on a glacier.

I’ve seen the sun burst out of the Atlantic.

I’ve eaten sweet papaya from a low hanging tree in Tahiti.

I’ve glimpsed Paradise.

Life made sense when I was all at sea.’

But will James ever be free to sail the seas again or be reunited with Ruth?

This story is a powerful exploration into the mind of a man in captivity.

About the author …

Emily Bullock won the Bristol Short Story Prize with her story ‘My Girl’, which was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4.  Her short stories have been included in collections such as Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology 2019, A Short Affair (Scribner, 2018), and Bath Short Story Prize Anthology 2014.  She has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and completed her PhD at the Open University, where she is an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing.  Her debut novel, The Longest Fight, published by Myriad, was shortlisted for the Cross Sports Book Awards, and listed in The Independent’s Paperbacks of the Year.

This book will be published in paperback on 24th September 2020

For all enquiries please contact Emma Dowson by email


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