"A Necessary Madness": PTSD in Mary Balogh's Survivors' Club Novels

Publication year

Here's a description of this chapter, from the introduction to the volume

Mary Balogh may be considered “too popular” to be on the academic radar, but she has published more than 60 novels and 30 novellas and has appeared more than 35 times on The New York Times Best Sellers list. She was first inspired by the novels of Jane Austen and then by Georgette Heyer. With her first publication of The Black Moth in 1921, Heyer has been credited as the inventor of the historical romance and one of its subgenres, the Regency Romance (Regis 2003, 125–26). A. S. Byatt was so impressed with Heyer’s work that she wrote one article asking why she is so good (1992, 239) and extolling her works as “An Honourable Escape” (1992). She also wrote an article titled “Georgette Heyer is a Better Novelist Than You Think” (2001).

Similarly, Brenda Ayres values the work of Mary Balogh, in Chapter 5, “A Necessary Madness,” in particular, Balogh’s literary therapy of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although the Victorians typically romanticised war, Balogh’s bestselling novels, which are set mostly in the early nineteenth century, did not. Beginning in 2013, Balogh produced eight books that comprise the Survivors’ Club series and probe nearly every aspect imaginable of war-related PTSD. Without sentimentality, Balogh divulges the topsy-turviness and untidiness of war’s aftermath on commissioned officers from the Napoleonic War. Furthermore, her plots offer resolution, healing and hope, not only for her characters but also for her readers who may be suffering from PTSD or who knows someone afflicted by PTSD. Even though Balogh foregrounds PTSD caused by the Peninsular Wars, she concurrently draws parallels between it and other forms of PTSD caused by behaviour and events that were also forbidden subjects to be discussed during the nineteenth century, such as spousal abuse, abandonment of a child by an alcoholic parent, Down syndrome, bankruptcy through gambling, psychological damage from social and familial rejection, rape, spousal infidelity, miscarriages, death of a spouse, death of a child, homosexuality and the inability of women to follow their dreams and hearts or to have a means to provide financially for themselves and children. Although such themes do appear in Victorian novels, they are not treated with the psychological insight and the possibility of recovery apparent in Balogh’s novels. (14-15)

Some notes: Jayashree Kamble is misgendered on page 100. On page 103 Ayres states that "Balogh’s Survivors’ Club novels are unique in their conflicts, for the characters endure psychological journeys of coping with PTSD for veterans of the Peninsular War as well as veterans of other types of wars" but there are other romances in which characters are veterans of the Napoleonic wars and suffer from PTSD.