The Wild Rose Press, Inc. (2015)
Reviewed by Nicollette Violante for Reader Views (01/16)
“The Five Step Plan” by Elizabeth Welsford takes place in 1800s London. Dr. William Whitecraft treats “hysteria” in women, which is ministered through “pelvic massages” and paroxysm. Dr. Whitecraft must balance his demanding medical practice, his fiancée’s needs, an obsessive patient, and a rivalry with another professional in the field. Dr. Whitecraft soon develops The Five Step Plan as a treatment, which skyrockets his practice. This book demonstrates the hypocrisy of English society during that time period, as we follow the often humorous life of Dr. Whitecraft.
I had my reservations at first when I started this book; “hysteria” was believed to be an actual medical condition that women were only afflicted with, and traces of these old beliefs can still be found in our times; however “The Five Step Plan” is a bit of a satire. Welsford demonstrates the ridiculous and hypocritical world of Victorian propriety and their views of female sexuality. “The Five Step” plan could be comparable to some of Jane Austen’s work, who always demonstrated the ridiculousness of society through the satirical portrayal of her characters. While Welsford explores the treatment of women and female sexuality of this era with humor, she gets her point across clearly and poignantly. While funny, “The Five Step Plan” in no way glorifies this era and treatment, but rather shows it for what it really was.
Dr. Whitecraft, along with his patients and the other characters in the novel, are portrayed humorously but never in a way that is insulting or demeaning. The characters grow and learn in ways that make them feel relatable and they could be our neighbor or friend, especially Dr. Whitecraft.
Well-written, engaging, humorous, and a page-turner, if anyone appreciates satire and a Victorian backdrop, this is the book for them. A quick and fun read, I recommend “The Five Step Plan” by Elizabeth Welsford to anyone who is interested in a comedic and historical novel.