September 7, 2021

The Mad Women’s Ball

The Mad Women’s Ball

Victoria Mas

Publication Date: September 7, 2021 by The Overlook Press

Genre: General Fiction/Historical Fiction/Gothic

Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Salpetriere Asylum: Paris, 1885. Dr. Charcot holds all of Paris in thrall with his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad and cast out from society. But the truth is much more complicated—these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives, those who have lost something precious, wayward daughters, or girls born from adulterous relationships. For Parisian society, the highlight of the year is the Lenten ball—the Madwomen’s Ball—when the great and good come to gawk at the patients of the Salpetriere dressed up in their finery for one night only. For the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope.

Genevieve is a senior nurse. After the childhood death of her sister Blandine, she shunned religion and placed her faith in both the celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Charcot and science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugenie—the 19-year-old daughter of a bourgeois family that has locked her away in the asylum. Because Eugenie has a secret: she sees spirits. Inspired by the scandalous, banned work that all of Paris is talking about, The Book of Spirits,Eugenie is determined to escape from the asylum—and the bonds of her gender—and seek out those who will believe in her. And for that she will need Genevieve’s help . . . 

My Thoughts: EXCELLENT debut! This is an intricately woven gothic-historical fiction story that will utterly mesmerize you. Author Victoria Mas does a marvelous job at highlighting the humanity of those who were forced to endure life at the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris during the 1800s. Salpetriere Hospital was where Dr. Jean Charcot established the first neurology clinic in Europe. Charcot utilized hypnosis as a means for evaluating hysteria. The women who were forced to live in the hospital ranged from the mentally disabled, those who suffered from epilepsy, the criminally insane and even those who were simply poor. Patients were not given any choice in how Charcot chose to treat them. This book takes the reader on the journey of Eugenie who was forced to live in the asylum by her bourgeois family. Mas overlaps the growth of spiritualism in Paris into the plot by granting Eugenie the ability of seeing spirits. Unexpected bonds and even more bizarre decisions make this book utterly fascinating.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. 

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