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A literary historical novel detailing the horrors faced by institutionalized women in 19th century Paris—soon to be a major film with Amazon Studios 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 o A literary historical novel detailing the horrors faced by institutionalized women in 19th century Paris—soon to be a major film with Amazon Studios 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 . . .


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A literary historical novel detailing the horrors faced by institutionalized women in 19th century Paris—soon to be a major film with Amazon Studios 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 o A literary historical novel detailing the horrors faced by institutionalized women in 19th century Paris—soon to be a major film with Amazon Studios 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 . . .

30 review for The Mad Women's Ball

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    May is mental health awareness month, a subject in which I have a vested interest. There is no doubt that the treatment of mental health has improved but there is also little doubt that access to treatment is not available to everyone in need. Also, the stigma of having a mental health issue is very much alive. Still, things have changed albeit slowly. The treatment of women in the past became very much an issue with husbands, fathers, and others could inter women in a mental health institute fo May is mental health awareness month, a subject in which I have a vested interest. There is no doubt that the treatment of mental health has improved but there is also little doubt that access to treatment is not available to everyone in need. Also, the stigma of having a mental health issue is very much alive. Still, things have changed albeit slowly. The treatment of women in the past became very much an issue with husbands, fathers, and others could inter women in a mental health institute for disobedience, for being different, for being rebellious and many other issues that had nothing to do with insanity. And so may I present, The Madwomen's Ball. Paris France, 1885, The Salpetriere, an institute for the insane. It is here the famous Dr. Charcot will make his reputation, giving live examples on various women, showcasing hypnosis. This book features four women, one who works as a nurse at the Institute, two who are patients and a young woman from a wealthy family whose father brings her to the Institute after learning she can communicate with the dead. We learn of life, treatment inside the Institute walls, get to know these four women with very different motives and feelings about being placed here. It is a novel of friendship, misjudgements, mistreatment and sisterhood. It emphasizes the strength of women, and the unfairness of society. It is a good story that has won many literary prizes in France and is being made into a movie by Amazon. ARC from Netgalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    It is short and well-written story, discussing how terribly women were treated in the late 19th century but without being a polemic. The narrative has a simple plot, not-overly dramatic, showing how women were punished for having opinions by being rejected by their families or even locked away, how women were totally under the control of the men in their lives, only enjoying the freedoms allowed them and not able to live life on their own terms. And while other women can be a source of comfort an It is short and well-written story, discussing how terribly women were treated in the late 19th century but without being a polemic. The narrative has a simple plot, not-overly dramatic, showing how women were punished for having opinions by being rejected by their families or even locked away, how women were totally under the control of the men in their lives, only enjoying the freedoms allowed them and not able to live life on their own terms. And while other women can be a source of comfort and support, there are also many women willingly complicit in the oppression of their fellow females. Although the main character is horrified at the thought of being trapped within the confines of the asylum, for many of the women, especially the poorer ones, the asylum offers them a kind of freedom. It is they only place where others have shown concern for their welfare and it is a haven of liberation from the subjugation to the whims and sexual violence of men which they suffered on the outside. Even in the asylum the women are subject to the control and exploitation of the doctors (all male, of course) who treat the women as interesting cases rather than real human beings, disregarding their feelings and desires. And the ball itself arouses conflicting emotions. Although it is appalling to imagine these poor women shown off as entertainment for the Paris elite the women themselves look forward to the ball, the atmosphere in the asylum becoming more calm during the time they spend preparing to enjoy a novel entertainment in fancy company within the ‘safety’ of the asylum walls. I often don’t enjoy books that have won prizes but this is a gem Highly recommended. I received this book from Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Prix Renaudot des lycéens 2019 The topic of Mas' debut novel is interesting and important: Set in 1880s, it tells the story of the women who were declared mad and committed to the Salpêtrière - mostly, these were perfectly healthy females who refused to play the roles society expected them to and women their families (mainly their husbands) wanted to get rid off for various reasons. There, the patients a.k.a. hysterics were kept like in a prison and treated as research objects by doctors like Je Prix Renaudot des lycéens 2019 The topic of Mas' debut novel is interesting and important: Set in 1880s, it tells the story of the women who were declared mad and committed to the Salpêtrière - mostly, these were perfectly healthy females who refused to play the roles society expected them to and women their families (mainly their husbands) wanted to get rid off for various reasons. There, the patients a.k.a. hysterics were kept like in a prison and treated as research objects by doctors like Jean-Martin Charcot who hypnotised women suffering from trauma and nervous conditions, thus inducing seizures, as a public spectacle. Charcot, his colleague Joseph Babinski and other historic personalities figure, and this could have been an excellent examination (haha, sorry) of the treatment of women, if it wasn't oh so clumsily crafted. Our main characters are Eugénie, a young woman who can see dead people (this is presented as a fact), reads Le Livre des Esprits (one of the first works on spiritism) and is committed by her father, and Geneviève, a nurse who starts to doubt whether what happens at the Salpêtrière is right. While these two join forces, the yearly "Mad Women's Ball" is approaching, an event where "normal" Parisians can enter the ward and dance, so thus another entertainment spectacle that entails staring at suffering women. So what's the problem here? Unfortunately, Mas spells out everything: Why every character does what, how everything is connected, why what happens is bad. All characters are stock characters, meant to educate the readers - and it's tedious. There is a fantastic story buried in this undercomplex melodrama, and I hope Mélanie Laurent's movie version will bring it out. Extra points for the translation though, as it was done by the wonderful Frank Wynne!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Some books are based on such an interesting premise that I can't wait to read them. Sometimes there's a brilliant payoff in discovering a great author or an new subgenre; other times the whole experience is meh. Victoria Mas' The Mad Women's Ball is certainly based on an interesting premise. And it is most definitely NOT meh. Set in late 19th Century Paris, the novel follows several characters connected—through employment or institutionalization—to the Salpetriere Asylum. For its time, Salpetrier Some books are based on such an interesting premise that I can't wait to read them. Sometimes there's a brilliant payoff in discovering a great author or an new subgenre; other times the whole experience is meh. Victoria Mas' The Mad Women's Ball is certainly based on an interesting premise. And it is most definitely NOT meh. Set in late 19th Century Paris, the novel follows several characters connected—through employment or institutionalization—to the Salpetriere Asylum. For its time, Salpetriere is ground-breaking. The new medical "tool" of hypnotism is being used to study female madness. Hundreds of medical men (and only men) gather to see Dr. Charcot, who directs Salpetriere, induce seizures in his patients, for reasons of medical research, of course. The ball of the title is an annual event which the wealthiest, most powerful Parisians attend for a chance to rub shoulders with "madwomen," who for one night are allowed to dress in finery and mingle with those living outside the asylum. Yes, the mad women's ball was a real event. You can read more about it here: https://victorianparis.wordpress.com/... Of course, many of the mad women aren't mad at all. This is an era when it's easy for a man to "dispose" of an inconvenient wife, mother, or daughter by taking her to Salpetriere. There's Therese, a murderess with an excellent reason for her crime; Louise, subjected to her uncle's sexual abuse; and Eugenie, who is visited by the dead. Eugenie has been committed by her father—a wealthy authoritarian and rationalist—who disowns her shortly after she confesses her "gift" to her beloved grandmother. The Mad Women's Ball explores two topics: perceptions of female madness and the possibility of spirit communication. The novel's characters have strong opinions about each. Victoria Mas shows us their many different responses when those opinions are challenged. The Mad Women's Ball succeeds as a fast-paced story of adversity and (occasional) triumph. It also gives readers a great deal to chew over regarding history, what it means to be female, and their own perceptions. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    The Mad Women’s Ball, originally published in France as Le Bal de Folles, is a debut novel by Victoria Mas which earned its author rave reviews, literary prizes and critical accolades. It is now being published in an English translation by Frank Wynne, bringing the work to a wider audience. The novel is set in Paris in the mid-1880s and presents us with two strong female protagonists. On the one hand there’s Genevieve, senior nurse at the Salpetriere, an asylum which houses various madwomen, hyst The Mad Women’s Ball, originally published in France as Le Bal de Folles, is a debut novel by Victoria Mas which earned its author rave reviews, literary prizes and critical accolades. It is now being published in an English translation by Frank Wynne, bringing the work to a wider audience. The novel is set in Paris in the mid-1880s and presents us with two strong female protagonists. On the one hand there’s Genevieve, senior nurse at the Salpetriere, an asylum which houses various madwomen, hysterics and outcasts. Its director, Dr Charcot, experiments with hypnotism on some of his high-profile cases during public lectures which feed the public’s thirst for voyeurism. Genevieve, is a firm believer in the power of science, personified in Charcot and his associates in whom she has full and unconditional faith. However, Genevieve’s beliefs are challenged when she meets Eugenie, an independent-minded young woman from a bourgeois family, who has been conveniently locked away at the Salpetriere after claiming to converse with ghosts. Is Eugenie delusional, or is she the victim of a patriarchal society, a society which wants to get rid of uncomfortable women? The “Mad Women’s Ball” of the title is a yearly event held at the asylum during the Lenten period: a costumed ball which gives a rare opportunity to high class society to mingle with the dangerous females of the asylum. Besides becoming itself a metaphor for the abuse suffered by the Salpetriere patients, the ball provides the perfect set-piece for the novel’s denouement. The Mad Woman’s Ball is an atmospheric work which combines fictional and historical elements (Charcot, as well as some other characters in the book did exist), and its Gothic and supernatural overtones add some frisson to the plot. However, I must admit that I was disappointed overall, and that I expected more from a worked dubbed as a “literary sensation”. While the two protagonists are well drawn and there are some interesting figures in the “supporting cast”, most of the other characters, particularly the male ones, are there merely to serve the plot or to highlight the general nefariousness of the male sex. Indeed, one of the problems of this novel is that it seems to be continuously underlining and highlighting its “message”. Here’s a typical paragraph: The sole purpose of the corset was clearly to immobilize a woman’s body in a posture considered desirable – it was certainly not intended to allow her free movement. As if intellectual constraints wee not sufficient, women had to be hobbled physically. One might almost think that, in imposing such restrictions, men did not so much scorn women as fear them. Don’t get me wrong. The novel’s feminist message is laudable, but I think readers should be expected to be intelligent enough to get the point without it having to be explained to them. Perhaps the real problem is that there are several very good, and some great, works of feminist Gothic and historical fiction available in English – by the likes of Evie Wyld, Sarah Waters, Alison Littlewood, Sarah Perry and Susan Fletcher, to name but a few – which cover the same territory. The Mad Women’s Ball faces stiff competition and while an entertaining and interesting read, I do not feel it is original enough to make it memorable. https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/20...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Erwin

    This book was an enjoyable, interesting read but it also broke my heart. It is powerful and eye opening. This is one of those books that will stay with me. It broke my heart for all the women who were unfairly treated during this time and institutionalized. It is a short, quick book and I feel like it could have been even better if it was longer and more in depth on some of the characters pasts and perhaps more on Eugenies new life after her escape. I would recommend this book for anyone who lov This book was an enjoyable, interesting read but it also broke my heart. It is powerful and eye opening. This is one of those books that will stay with me. It broke my heart for all the women who were unfairly treated during this time and institutionalized. It is a short, quick book and I feel like it could have been even better if it was longer and more in depth on some of the characters pasts and perhaps more on Eugenies new life after her escape. I would recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction. Thank you Net Galley and Abrams, The Overlook Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book will be published September 14, 2021.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The Mad Women’s Ball is a dark, captivating and utterly original work of gothic-tinged historical fiction set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris. Every year, in mid-Lent, a very strange Bal des Folles is held. For an evening, the Tout-Paris slips on to waltz and polka tunes in the company of women disguised as columbines, gypsies, zouaves and other musketeers. Spread over two rooms - on one side the idiots and the epileptics; on the other hand the hysterics, the mad and the maniacs The Mad Women’s Ball is a dark, captivating and utterly original work of gothic-tinged historical fiction set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris. Every year, in mid-Lent, a very strange Bal des Folles is held. For an evening, the Tout-Paris slips on to waltz and polka tunes in the company of women disguised as columbines, gypsies, zouaves and other musketeers. Spread over two rooms - on one side the idiots and the epileptics; on the other hand the hysterics, the mad and the maniacs - this ball is actually one of the last experiments of Charcot, eager to make sick of the Salpêtrière women like the others. Among them, Eugenie, Louise and Geneviève, of which Victoria Mas retraces the course in this absorbing novel and strikes bare the female condition in the nineteenth century. This is a beguiling, wholly unique and beautifully written piece of historical fact meets fiction and a powerful, cinematic and engaging thriller about the injustice that these women faced during that time. Set against the backdrop of major societal and historical development and change all of which are vividly portrayed and you find yourself rooting for the strong protagonists whose only wish is to be set free. The ball is fascinating but also a strange and quite perverse event meant to entertain Parisian socialites. With lustrous, rich description, a reflection of 19th century aesthetic, the tone of the story weaves together thriller, history and mystery in a truly refreshing, atmospheric and riveting manner. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Giles

    While this is a short book it was really addictive and impactful. The writing was beautiful and poetic and enchanting, and the atmosphere of 1800s Paris was brought to life beautifully that I couldn’t put this down and read it in 2 sittings. What I really liked about this book was the commentary it dealt with. Not only was it a very feminist historical fiction, but it really explored the history of medicine and particularly that of ‘hysterical’ women and their treatment by male relatives and male While this is a short book it was really addictive and impactful. The writing was beautiful and poetic and enchanting, and the atmosphere of 1800s Paris was brought to life beautifully that I couldn’t put this down and read it in 2 sittings. What I really liked about this book was the commentary it dealt with. Not only was it a very feminist historical fiction, but it really explored the history of medicine and particularly that of ‘hysterical’ women and their treatment by male relatives and male doctors alike. It further discussed issues of religion and faith, as well as exploring the subdivision of society that believed in spiritualism and ghosts at the time through one patient who was able to speak with the dead. It all came together into this gothic, dark, atmospheric, cocktail of historical fiction and social commentary explored through a number of different women and girls who were all struggling to find their place in a patriarchal world.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katarina

    2,5 ⭐ To me, this was more of a play script than a solid novel. I expected more, something along the lines of Rebecca meets The Yellow Wallpaper that had such an impact on mental health perception. Solid book, it didnt blew me away or a anything but I dont regret picking it up either!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Darshayita Thakur

    " Truth be told, whether free or incarcerated, women were not safe anywhere. Since the dawn of time, they had been the victims of decisions that were taken without their consent. "  Imagine Girl, Interrupted, but it's historical fiction set in Paris. The name of the book says it all! There is indeed a ball for the women who now spend their life at the Salpêtrière institute in 19th century Paris. This is presented as an occasion for the patients to step out of the confines of the mental institutio " Truth be told, whether free or incarcerated, women were not safe anywhere. Since the dawn of time, they had been the victims of decisions that were taken without their consent. "  Imagine Girl, Interrupted, but it's historical fiction set in Paris. The name of the book says it all! There is indeed a ball for the women who now spend their life at the Salpêtrière institute in 19th century Paris. This is presented as an occasion for the patients to step out of the confines of the mental institution and mingle with the outside world - the so-called " normal " society. It is just a sophisticated way of saying that these "mad-women" would be on display for the entertainment of the Parisian society, to quench man's curiosity as to how a "mentally unstable" woman looks and behaves. " The women of Salpêtrière were no longer pariahs whose existence had to remain hidden, but entertainment, thrust into the limelight without a flicker of regret. " *What defined madness in 1885?  - Having an opinion on top of being a woman would have definitely got you bonus points - Both promiscuity and questioning your husband's adultery are double no nos. -  Epilepsy, Hysteria and Melancholia : The latter generally a result of systematic abuse by men, both familiar and unfamiliar. " The Salpêtrière is a dumping ground for women who disturb the peace. A prison for women guilty of possessing an opinion. "  You got raped? So what? You get traumatized after the incident and suffer from back bending seizures- welcome to the mental institute. Let Dr. Charcot put you on display in front of 400 men while he experiments on you, hypnotises you, in the name of advancement of medical science. " Although madness in men is not the same as that in women: men use it against others; women turn it in on themselves. "  The story follows three main characters. Genevieve, the matron who is in charge of taking care of the patients and preparing them for whatever is needed of them by Dr. Charcot and his associates. Next we have young Louise, proud of having had more than two hundred attacks of hysteria in the past three years; she pines for glory and recognition, to please Dr. Charcot and become the next Augustine (Louise Augustine Gleizes born 21 August 1861, known as Augustine or A, was a very famous woman in the late 19th century, due to neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot publicly exhibiting her symptoms as a hysteria patient while she was held at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. ) Finally we have the new patient Eugenie, whose father personally admitted her to the institute, without her consent of course, because she saw spirits and could speak to them, and the patriarch could have none of that being connected to his good family name. " This is a world in which upholding the family name is more important than protecting one's daughters. " The setting is superb and so is the history behind it. We see several actual historical figures such as Dr. Charcot, the famous French neurologist; Joseph Babinski, a French-polish professor of neurology; Albert Londe, the photographer; Alan Kardec, leader of the French Spiritualist movement, and Leymarie, his successor. I would definitely recommend this to both lovers and non-lovers of historical fiction. Thank you NetGalley, ABRAMS, and The Overlook Press for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    Disappointing. This wasn't what I expected, nothing stood out for me, the characters are boring and the universe of the Salpêtrière wasn't explored properly, Charcot was barely there, it felt like the summary had almost nothing to do with the book. The writing isn't particularly good, the ending is not surprising at all. There isn't really a proper story arc in this book. Such a shame that this interesting concept was wasted. Disappointing. This wasn't what I expected, nothing stood out for me, the characters are boring and the universe of the Salpêtrière wasn't explored properly, Charcot was barely there, it felt like the summary had almost nothing to do with the book. The writing isn't particularly good, the ending is not surprising at all. There isn't really a proper story arc in this book. Such a shame that this interesting concept was wasted.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Demelda Penkitty

    The Salpêtrière asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or hysterical, outcasts from society. But the truth is much more complicated - for these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives or strong-willed daughters. Once a year a grand ball is held at the hospital. For the Parisian elite, the Mad Women's Ball is the highlight of the social season; for the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope. Genev The Salpêtrière asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or hysterical, outcasts from society. But the truth is much more complicated - for these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives or strong-willed daughters. Once a year a grand ball is held at the hospital. For the Parisian elite, the Mad Women's Ball is the highlight of the social season; for the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope. Geneviève is a senior nurse. After the childhood death of her sister, she has shunned religion and placed her faith in Doctor Charcot and his new science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugénie, the 19-year-old daughter of a bourgeois family. Because Eugénie has a secret, and she needs Geneviève's help. Their fates will collide on the night of the Mad Women's Ball... The novel is set in a real historical context and its characters include real people: the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot; his students, Joseph Babinski and Gilles de la Tourette; and the dancer Jane Avril. The Salpêtrière asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or hysterical, outcasts from society. But the truth is much more complicated, for these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives or strong-willed daughters. The books strength lies in the portrayal of it’s women and the shocking truth of how easy it is for a man to have a woman placed in an asylum. It is horrifying how the women become no more than objects: a father’s cold decision to choose his reputation and offload his daughter like a defective belonging; a doctor using the women in his performance as an expert in his field; the grotesque spectacle of dressing up the women in costumes to be paraded around in front of Paris society at the yearly grand ball. A fascinating piece of historical fiction, with a feminist perspective and the added bonus of a supernatural element. It questions what makes us ‘mad’ - is someone who believes in spiritualism any more mentally ill than someone who believes in God and the events of the Bible?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ann Marie

    Special thanks to Overlook Press and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Another winner of a novel. I'm on a "good book" roll lately and with ARCs that is rolling the dice, sometimes. Set in Paris, late 1800's, this is a book about an asylum where women are put, not necessarily for being crazy, but because they aren't wanted, by parents, husbands, children, whoever. An asylum to repress females for just being. Sure there are some that are crazy, one being a murde Special thanks to Overlook Press and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Another winner of a novel. I'm on a "good book" roll lately and with ARCs that is rolling the dice, sometimes. Set in Paris, late 1800's, this is a book about an asylum where women are put, not necessarily for being crazy, but because they aren't wanted, by parents, husbands, children, whoever. An asylum to repress females for just being. Sure there are some that are crazy, one being a murdered (with good reason, I thought), The Salpatriere Asylum has all male doctors who treat the women, like an object to study, rather than....women or people I should say in this age of binary, none binary, and what not. But back then women were women and every year, there is a big fancy ball held, where all the Parisian elite, rub shoulders and gawk at the "crazies". Eugenie, A 19 year old patient, was locked away because she sees " spirits".She was put in here by her wealthy father. This book was another winner for me. Rich in history, women's voices, and opposition of, and whether there are actually "spirits", so a little of the paranormal as well. Great book, fast paced, and unique!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    Take the horrors from American Horror Story season 2; Asylum, and the mental health awareness presentation from Girl, Interrupted; throw in some historical flare from Paris late 1880’s, and you’ll have this book. Despite a few words, phrases and terms being lost in translation, this book was beautifully written and a very accurate representation of “madwomen’s” asylums. I wish I could go back, reread this book and sticky note every sentence that made me stop and think. However, there were at lea Take the horrors from American Horror Story season 2; Asylum, and the mental health awareness presentation from Girl, Interrupted; throw in some historical flare from Paris late 1880’s, and you’ll have this book. Despite a few words, phrases and terms being lost in translation, this book was beautifully written and a very accurate representation of “madwomen’s” asylums. I wish I could go back, reread this book and sticky note every sentence that made me stop and think. However, there were at least one or two points on each page so that would be a LOT of stickies. I fell in love with the characters, I thought the author did a wonderful job of creating vivid, colorful characters. Even though Eugénie was the “main” character in the book, at least I assumed that from the summary, the real star of the show was Geneviève. Hard and stoic at first, she had an incredible character development. I don’t believe this book was overly “political” or “feminist,” I think it accurately represented women, the oppression they faced at the hands of men, and a wonderful redemption, and acceptance in the end. I will say, the ending wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was expecting a more melancholic and realistic ending, but I am overall extremely pleased with the book as a whole. Very recently I’ve been interested in cultural, avant-garde art. Whether that be movies, books, or something in between. Specifically related to France. I’ve watched my share of messed up French horror films (Climax, High Tension, just to name a couple), and I have been seeking out some French classic literature such as “Story of the Eye” and now “The Mad Women’s Ball.” However, I have to say this one takes the cake. It was brilliant, beautiful, eye-opening, and one of my new all-time favorite books. I will anxiously be waiting for the movie to come out, which I hope is real soon. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, specifically that which is related to Paris, France. Or, if you’re like me and have an unhealthy obsession with old hospitals for the clinically insane, then this book is a MUST read. Goodreads giveaway, and one of the best books I’ve read in a while.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Liv

    TW: Rape, self harm ‘The Mad Women’s Ball’ is the debut novel by Victoria Mas, the story delves into the lives of “Mad women” as it takes us inside the walls of The Salpêtrière Asylum. The novel explores the trauma, pain and suffering of the female patients, both past and present, as we learn about their lives and the reasons they were sent to the asylum. This was one part of the narrative I thought was necessary in order for Mas’s characters to feel developed and layered - I definitely think Mas TW: Rape, self harm ‘The Mad Women’s Ball’ is the debut novel by Victoria Mas, the story delves into the lives of “Mad women” as it takes us inside the walls of The Salpêtrière Asylum. The novel explores the trauma, pain and suffering of the female patients, both past and present, as we learn about their lives and the reasons they were sent to the asylum. This was one part of the narrative I thought was necessary in order for Mas’s characters to feel developed and layered - I definitely think Mas succeeded at this! Not only were the characters individually fascinating, reading their dynamics and interactions were also captivating, their companionships and sisterhood made my heart ache for them. I love the historical fiction genre and this book definitely did not let me down, Mas’s exploration of Paris’s infamous Salpêtrière hospital, was poignant and shocking. I learnt about real-life physicians and patients, alongside Mas’s inclusion of historical facts and events such as the French Revolution and the French spiritualist movement. Though I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed, I overall really enjoyed this book and found it a thought-provoking and powerful read. Thank you to NetGalley for my ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Madelon

    Good historical fiction combines verifiable fact with a great story… a believable story. In THE MAD WOMEN'S BALL, Victoria Mas has done the research and built a tale of what it was to be a woman, in Paris, in 1885. It is not a pretty picture. Most of the women institutionalized at Salpêtrière, the madwomen, are given unique personalities and faces that could easily mingle in society and never be given a second look both then and now. The women of Salpêtrière are guinea pigs for Dr. Charcot's Frid Good historical fiction combines verifiable fact with a great story… a believable story. In THE MAD WOMEN'S BALL, Victoria Mas has done the research and built a tale of what it was to be a woman, in Paris, in 1885. It is not a pretty picture. Most of the women institutionalized at Salpêtrière, the madwomen, are given unique personalities and faces that could easily mingle in society and never be given a second look both then and now. The women of Salpêtrière are guinea pigs for Dr. Charcot's Friday lectures presented to the public as if a woman hypnotized into a debilitating fit qualifies as entertainment. His current patient of choice is Louise who does seem to suffer from mental challenges. Then there is Eugénie Cléry, daughter of a respected bourgeois family, locked away by her own father because she dares to think for herself. Finally, the nurse in charge of the ward, Geneviève Gleizes, who does not permit herself the luxury of empathy. It is through these three women that we come to understand a male dominated world where women literally must be seen and not heard. The madwomen are permitted to socialize with the outside world just one night a year… the night of the Lenten Ball, more commonly called the Madwomen's Ball. Invitations are sent, society descends upon Salpêtrière, and the women are allowed fancy dress costumes as they are put on display. For me, the most telling line in the book is "The Salpêtrière is a dumping ground for women who disturb the peace. An asylum for those whose sensitivities do not tally with what is expected of them. A prison for women guilty of possessing an opinion." There is no doubt that this book is an excellent example of both historical and feminist fiction. A point of personal privilege… I am intrigued by books that have the word 'mad' in the title. I've been called Mad (short for Madelon) since I was a little kid. When I read the definition of 'mad' in The Devil's Dictionary, I added it to my email signature… "MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech, and action derived by the conformants from the study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that they themselves are sane. - from The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce." You might bear this definition in mind when reading THE MAD WOMEN'S BALL.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    thank you to doubleday books for having me on the blog tour for this nostalgic piece of historical gothic fiction! if you’re a fan of the haunting of hill house, fingersmith and classic literature like lady audley’s secret, this should be next on your reading list. centred around the women of the salpêtrière asylum, mas’ explores the historic legacy of medical misogyny that befell many women who ended up in the position our heroine eugénie finds herself in. after confessing a spiritual secret to thank you to doubleday books for having me on the blog tour for this nostalgic piece of historical gothic fiction! if you’re a fan of the haunting of hill house, fingersmith and classic literature like lady audley’s secret, this should be next on your reading list. centred around the women of the salpêtrière asylum, mas’ explores the historic legacy of medical misogyny that befell many women who ended up in the position our heroine eugénie finds herself in. after confessing a spiritual secret to her grandmother, she finds herself admitted to the hospital at her fathers duress, placed under the care of ward matron geneviève. at first, the orderly regards eugenie with suspicion. but a startling revelation leads genevieve to reconsider her own views on the women she cares for, the patriarchal establishment she surrounds herself with and the woman who’s freedom is rightly deserved. mas’ literary style and focus on tradition lends itself to the contemporary era in a variety of ways. her vivid descriptions of Paris, the asylum and the women within it add to the foreboding and gothic atmosphere that permeates the novel. although sometimes the colloquial dialogue felt jarringly current given the novel’s context and inspiration, the lively cast of characters and social commentary are enough to fully immerse us in their world. her powerful examination of how many Victorian women were treated by society, their families and the establishments designed to protect them are a startling reminder of how recent incidents like those that occur in the novel go back in our history. I particularly loved the unapologetic fallen women therésè and eugénie’s strong resolve despite her hardships. ultimately, I feel like some parts of the plot could do with fleshing out, stronger writing and a more powerful ending but this novel ended up being a pleasant surprise for me. a modern revision of Victorian, gothic works of fiction that proves to be a stark reminder of how far women have come and how far we still have to go for our autonomy, our voices to be heard and our strength to be respected. TW: graphic sexual violence, suicide, medical violence.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diana N.

    Are the women in this book really mad? This book tells the story of women in a mental hospital in the late 19th century. It really does a great job at conveying the injustice toward women at that time. Once labeled, it was extremely hard to be relieved of that label, true or not. I really liked Genevieve's character because she went from being hard and tough to listening and understanding. It was nice to see the gradual change in her character for good. This book was fairly short and seemed to wra Are the women in this book really mad? This book tells the story of women in a mental hospital in the late 19th century. It really does a great job at conveying the injustice toward women at that time. Once labeled, it was extremely hard to be relieved of that label, true or not. I really liked Genevieve's character because she went from being hard and tough to listening and understanding. It was nice to see the gradual change in her character for good. This book was fairly short and seemed to wrap up quickly, but I really enjoyed it. Thank you to the publisher for providing me a digital copy of this ARC for my honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    3.5 stars I really enjoyed the writing and the subject matter of this book. Women all though history have been relegated to “hysterics and madness” in the eyes of men. And reading some of these stories, although fictional, definitely convey the thinking of the time. I wish the book was a bit longer hence the lower rating. But I definitely recommend it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Celina

    The Mad Women’s Ball is a quick but enthralling debut from french author, Victoria Mas. We spend most of our time in the infamous Salpêtrière asylum where we follow some of the women committed there. It is unsurprising that most, if not all, are at the asylum because a man put them there. It is such an upsetting and frustrating thing to witness because of how real that was in the centuries before us. There is a slight paranormal element that makes this story even more captivating. Eugénie can see The Mad Women’s Ball is a quick but enthralling debut from french author, Victoria Mas. We spend most of our time in the infamous Salpêtrière asylum where we follow some of the women committed there. It is unsurprising that most, if not all, are at the asylum because a man put them there. It is such an upsetting and frustrating thing to witness because of how real that was in the centuries before us. There is a slight paranormal element that makes this story even more captivating. Eugénie can see and correspond with the dead. Of course, when she confides this secret to someone, she is locked away. Geneviève, the senior nurse, is her only way out of the asylum, but Geneviève doesn’t believe in any religion let alone ghosts. Seeing how and if these two with conflicting beliefs can come together made this novel such a page turner. All of these events lead up to the most anticipated annual ball. The women look forward this dance every year for a chance to feel normal, when really, they are being made into a spectacle for the guests coming from the outside. It is really heartbreaking to see how they turn these women into an exhibition. Overall, this is a very haunting but beautifully written story that takes you back to Paris in the late 1800s. I quickly became invested in all of these women’s lives and was always rooting for their happiness and freedom. Of course, with a setting as dark as an asylum, there are dark themes present. Please proceed with caution. Thank you to Doubleday for the arc! This title was released in the UK on June 17, 2021.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Antipodean Bookclub

    “Because Madwomen could now evoke desire. Their allure was paradoxical; they aroused both fear and fantasy, horror and sensuality. A fit of hysteria suffered by a hypnotised patient before a rapt audience looked less like a neurological dysfunction than a frantic erotic dance.” . . . If a book can be described as visually stunning, then that’s how I would describe The Madwoman’s Ball, something that made sense when I learn that the author has worked in the US film industry for some years. I read thi “Because Madwomen could now evoke desire. Their allure was paradoxical; they aroused both fear and fantasy, horror and sensuality. A fit of hysteria suffered by a hypnotised patient before a rapt audience looked less like a neurological dysfunction than a frantic erotic dance.” . . . If a book can be described as visually stunning, then that’s how I would describe The Madwoman’s Ball, something that made sense when I learn that the author has worked in the US film industry for some years. I read this book is one glorious sitting and it’s the imagery that has stayed with me; the snow falling outside the Salpêtrière, Eugénie being dragged into the asylum by her father and brother, the patients parading into the ballroom for the Lenten Ball. Alongside this is the memory of the astonishing cruelties dealt out to the women unfortunate enough to be imprisoned in the asylum, ovarian pressure during a “fit” and worse. The male doctors, many of whom were to become famous off the back of their study of their female patients, seemed to focus on female anatomy as a source of “madness” - it seems that the supposed sins of Eve were still being punished. A novel which has stuck in my imagination and I can see why it is such a lauded debut.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    Visit the setting of The Mad Women's Ball The novel’s setting is a real historical one and includes many real life historical figures such as the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Everyone is in thrall to this man and his work. He carries out treatments and trials of hypnotism on those women who come to him, labelled as mad in some way. The title of the book is the name of the annual ball that was held at the asylum. For the Parisian elite, this was the highlight of the social season; for the wo Visit the setting of The Mad Women's Ball The novel’s setting is a real historical one and includes many real life historical figures such as the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Everyone is in thrall to this man and his work. He carries out treatments and trials of hypnotism on those women who come to him, labelled as mad in some way. The title of the book is the name of the annual ball that was held at the asylum. For the Parisian elite, this was the highlight of the social season; for the women themselves, it was rather more disturbing. They had a moment of freedom in some ways, at least a change in routine. They wore costumes at the ball and the asylum staff practically paraded them amongst Paris society of the time. Fascinating!

  23. 4 out of 5

    CheckLitOutEm

    “Dreams are dangerous things...especially when they depend on someone else.” Dark, compelling and intriguing...I found myself absorbed in this shocking read. The book has been beautifully translated into English and it sensitively deals with mental health illnesses, along with being perceived as difficult (opinionated), different or deranged. Set in the 1800’s, Eugenie, a 19 year old young woman, finds herself institutionalised in an asylum where women were experimented on through hypnosis. Her f “Dreams are dangerous things...especially when they depend on someone else.” Dark, compelling and intriguing...I found myself absorbed in this shocking read. The book has been beautifully translated into English and it sensitively deals with mental health illnesses, along with being perceived as difficult (opinionated), different or deranged. Set in the 1800’s, Eugenie, a 19 year old young woman, finds herself institutionalised in an asylum where women were experimented on through hypnosis. Her father, having deemed her to be deranged, delivers her to the facility, with the help of her brother, right before the ball is to happen. Inside the asylum, we are introduced to an array of characters; each one being one that you can sympathise with. It’s truly horrifying to read about how men had that level of control and the fear that women must have constantly lived in is truly abhorrent. Whilst in the asylum, Eugenie is greeted with a nurse, Genevieve, the daughter of a doctor. She has dedicated her life to the advancement of medicine and her need to help people. She is seen to be cold in her appearance and stature, by the ‘madwomen’, but there’s something that draws her to Eugenie and Eugenie to her (no spoilers here). In a world where there’s no escape, there’s only hopes and dreams to hold on to, but for many the institute has become a way of life forged out of routine, structure and fear. As a reader, we are left wondering what will happen to Eugenie. Will she survive the life she now has and what will happen if she become the next test subject of the doctor and his hypnosis. An hypnotising novel that is mysterious, dark and twisted that needs to be read (or consumed if you’re like me). I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is well worth your time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ilene Marcusen

    "She has found it difficult to believe in a heaven and a hell that are eternal - life already seems like a form of punishment and the idea that this punishment would continue after death seems absurd and unjust." When you are a woman trying to think for yourself in the late 1800's and you just want a life that isn't controlled by the men around you, life can seem like a punishment because you don't fit in the cookie cutter world you are placed in. That is how Eugenie feels during the course of t "She has found it difficult to believe in a heaven and a hell that are eternal - life already seems like a form of punishment and the idea that this punishment would continue after death seems absurd and unjust." When you are a woman trying to think for yourself in the late 1800's and you just want a life that isn't controlled by the men around you, life can seem like a punishment because you don't fit in the cookie cutter world you are placed in. That is how Eugenie feels during the course of this book. She is a 19 year old woman who is expected to marry and settle down to a family. The problem is, she likes her independence. On top of that, she sees the spirits of people who have passed on. When she reveals this fact to her grandmother, her father finds out about it and decides to disown her and sends her to the Salpetriere, a place for mad women. Genevieve is the other main character whose spirit has already been broken by society. She believes in science and works as a nurse for Dr. Charcot at the Salpetriere, helping mad women find a some balance in their lives without getting too close. After her sister, Blandine, died years ago, she has hidden her heart away and she finds it opened when Eugenie speaks to Blandine and passes on a message for the girl. The best line to summarize this book is this: "It is neither possible nor appropriate to rebel against everything, all the time, to attack every individual or institution guilty of injustice." The message of this book touched me deeply. Sometimes, I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle for my mental and physical health, screaming into the ether and no one can hear me. When I try to say that I'm not crazy, but I might need a little help sometimes, the people around me might say that I am crazy. I have been put down as a woman and told that my thoughts don't matter and that I'm too emotional in my delivery. I did think that the plot could have been fleshed out more, and I have gone back and forth on what to rate it, but the more I think about the themes, the more I like the book, so I've gone with the higher rating.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    A prize winner and a bestseller? I kind of see why it is, but I really don’t feel it deserves either accolade. The writing, although not bad, is bland and simplistic, with far too much telling and not enough showing, and the stock characters and melodramatic situations and events diminishes what is admittedly an interesting concept. Set in Paris in 1885 we are taken into the infamous Salpetriere Asylum and the regime of Dr Charcot and his hypnosis therapy. The two main protagonists of the novel A prize winner and a bestseller? I kind of see why it is, but I really don’t feel it deserves either accolade. The writing, although not bad, is bland and simplistic, with far too much telling and not enough showing, and the stock characters and melodramatic situations and events diminishes what is admittedly an interesting concept. Set in Paris in 1885 we are taken into the infamous Salpetriere Asylum and the regime of Dr Charcot and his hypnosis therapy. The two main protagonists of the novel are Eugenie who is incarcerated by her conventional ogre of a father because she admits to seeing spirits (bad move) and the senior nurse Geneviève, who under her stern exterior harbours a heart of gold (of course). For any reader not already familiar with the Salpetriere and the treatment of so-called “mad” women in that era, the book is an interesting enough portrait of the place and time. But for those who already know something, there is nothing original or particularly insightful here. And choosing a protagonist who actually sees spirits, a questionable capability even in the most enlightened of societies, is in my opinion, well…questionable. So an entertaining enough short read, but an inconsequential one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

    I really liked this book. It takes place in the late 19th century wherein women could not realize their dreams or whom they felt they were meant to be, possessing certain gifts, talents. We learn once again how most men treated women and if they didn't fit into their conception, oftentimes they were taken by their fathers or husbands to La Salpetriere, a mental hospital in Paris, France. I learned that this book is going to be made into a movie and the descriptions of Paris will be marvelous on s I really liked this book. It takes place in the late 19th century wherein women could not realize their dreams or whom they felt they were meant to be, possessing certain gifts, talents. We learn once again how most men treated women and if they didn't fit into their conception, oftentimes they were taken by their fathers or husbands to La Salpetriere, a mental hospital in Paris, France. I learned that this book is going to be made into a movie and the descriptions of Paris will be marvelous on screen. When I started to read this book I thought it might be like the Susan Hayward movie I saw so many years ago (The Snake Pit) and never forgot because of the torture! This book deals with ideas, the immergence of hypnosis, faith ie: does God exist, spiritualism. The Mad Women's Ball brings two worlds together, that of the hospital and the men of society who would never "cross paths". The meeting of Genvieve, the nurse, and Eugenie with her unusual gift is the most important moment of this book! The author's style of writing is direct and to the point. The plot moves quickly! Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. If my bookclub starts up I am going to suggest it🤓Thank you GR and Abrams the art of Books for the ARC I won!😊

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kate Downey

    A gem! This is dense and oddly airy writing. Mas writes historical fiction with a definite feel for the epoch without labouring the detail. I did wonder whether the descriptions of the actual ball were worthy of the title, and the build up to that one event was not sufficiently rewarded by the investment in the event itself. It just sort of happened as a plot device under the cover of which other events could occur. I would have liked the personal threads of the different inmates sewn more secur A gem! This is dense and oddly airy writing. Mas writes historical fiction with a definite feel for the epoch without labouring the detail. I did wonder whether the descriptions of the actual ball were worthy of the title, and the build up to that one event was not sufficiently rewarded by the investment in the event itself. It just sort of happened as a plot device under the cover of which other events could occur. I would have liked the personal threads of the different inmates sewn more securely into the ball scene. That aside - and a few unnecessary repetitions of Eugenie's desire to escape as well as a LOT of escaping tendrils from ubiquitous chignons – I really enjoyed this book. I loved the subtle gestures to who is mad and who is not, to where those lines are drawn and crossed. Mas made good use of costume and clothing to comment on 'appearance' - in all senses of that word. It's a very clever book, I think. It has layers that require uncovering. It is also of great interest to readers who like narratives that explore a woman's lot and place in society throughout time. Highly recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cristina De Luca

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. To be fair, this book would deserve a 4.5. The story is amazing and I also loved the way and the parts underlined to talk about feminism, rape, justice. I also loved it was not a mix and match of stories used to talk about something. Everything was honestly very well connected and the characters were all very well built. I think maybe Louise’s character would have deserved a bit more psychological space, because it seems to be that she is the only one who’s actually crazy of the main characters, To be fair, this book would deserve a 4.5. The story is amazing and I also loved the way and the parts underlined to talk about feminism, rape, justice. I also loved it was not a mix and match of stories used to talk about something. Everything was honestly very well connected and the characters were all very well built. I think maybe Louise’s character would have deserved a bit more psychological space, because it seems to be that she is the only one who’s actually crazy of the main characters, despite what brought her at the hospital. However, I did really love this book: the way it was constructed and the scenes described worked perfectly in my humble opinion. The only reason I do not think it is a 5 star book regards the way it is written. The style is kind of weird sometimes, and whether most of the times it can be understood it often just seems bizarre.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Seher

    Thank you Edelweiss for the chance to read and review this! This is a fast-paced read that really keeps you along for the ride but also breaks your heart while doing so. ​ While we could all tell that Eugenie would wind up in that place, and knew it was coming, we definitely didn't expect that betrayal! Could see the final interaction with the intern coming, but maybe not the outcome that I expected. I thought that could be a chance for the world to see what was really happening there; a weird way Thank you Edelweiss for the chance to read and review this! This is a fast-paced read that really keeps you along for the ride but also breaks your heart while doing so. ​ While we could all tell that Eugenie would wind up in that place, and knew it was coming, we definitely didn't expect that betrayal! Could see the final interaction with the intern coming, but maybe not the outcome that I expected. I thought that could be a chance for the world to see what was really happening there; a weird way of making it a refuge for the women as well. Theophile doing was what right was unexpected entirely, because at the start I hated him the most.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bookclubforme

    Casting a light on what life would have been like inside the infamous Salpêtrière asylum, a hospital which operated more like a prison, Mas' novel focuses on the unjustifiable treatment and the seemingly endless list of assigned illnesses and behaviours used to ostracize the women who were sent there. The plot follows the story of Geneviève, a senior nurse who after losing her sister as a child, has shunned religion and placed her faith in Science, taking pride in her work alongside the great Doc Casting a light on what life would have been like inside the infamous Salpêtrière asylum, a hospital which operated more like a prison, Mas' novel focuses on the unjustifiable treatment and the seemingly endless list of assigned illnesses and behaviours used to ostracize the women who were sent there. The plot follows the story of Geneviève, a senior nurse who after losing her sister as a child, has shunned religion and placed her faith in Science, taking pride in her work alongside the great Doctor Charcot and his revolutionary "treatments". However, things change when she meets Eugénie, a young women shunned by her family and dismissed by professionals for claiming to be able to communicate with the dead. In the days leading up to the Lenten Ball, a dance that is held basically, for the amusement of Parisian elite, Eugénie convinces Geneviève of her sanity, opening her eyes to the possibility that the sane are being labelled as insane, in order to keep them locked away. Promising to help Eugénie, their fates collide on the night of the Mad Women's Ball, resulting in an ending, I didn't see coming! Quietly wicked, its a dark, powerful and compelling tale based on the goings on of a real asylum, which explores mental health, the power of the elite and the strength of women in the face of mistreatment. I devoured it, in two sittings as I just couldn't put it down! ✨💃🏻👨🏻‍⚕️

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