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The Madwomen of Paris: A Novel av Jennifer…
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The Madwomen of Paris: A Novel (utgåvan 2023)

av Jennifer Cody Epstein (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
395634,410 (3.85)1
"A young woman with amnesia falls under the influence of a powerful doctor in Paris's notorious women's asylum, where she must fight to reclaim dangerous memories-and even more perilously, her sanity-in this gripping historical novel inspired by true events, from the bestselling author of Wunderland. "I didn't see her the day she came to the asylum. Looking back, this sometimes strikes me as unlikely. Impossible, even, given how utterly her arrival would upend the already chaotic order of things at the SalpAetriaere-not to mention change the course of my own life there." When Josephine arrives at the SalpAetriaere she is covered in blood and badly bruised. Suffering from near-complete amnesia, she is diagnosed with what the Paris papers are calling "the epidemic of the age": hysteria. It is a disease so baffling and widespread that Doctor Jean-Martine Charcot, the asylum's famous director, devotes many of his popular public lectures to the malady. To Charcot's delight, Josephine also proves extraordinarily susceptible to hypnosis, the tool he uses to unlock hysteria's myriad (and often sensational) symptoms. Soon Charcot is regularly featuring Josephine on his stage, entrancing the young woman into fantastical acts and hallucinatory fits before enrapturedaudiences and eager newsmen-many of whom feature her on their paper's front pages. For Laure, a lonely asylum attendant assigned to Josephine's care, Charcot's diagnosis seems a godsend. A former hysteric herself, she knows better than most that life inthe SalpAetriaere's Hysteria Ward is far easier than in its dreaded Lunacy division, from which few inmates ever return. But as Josephine's fame as Charcot's "star hysteric" grows, her memory starts to return-and with it, images of a horrific crime she believes she's committed. Haunted by these visions, and helplessly trapped in Charcot's hypnotic web, she starts spiraling into actual insanity. Desperate to save the girl she has grown to love, Laure plots their escape from the SalpAetriaere and its doctors. First, though, she must confirm whether Josaephine is actually a madwoman, soon to be consigned to the SalpAetriaere's brutal Lunacy Ward-or a murderer, destined for the guillotine. Both are dark possibilities-but not nearly as dark as what Laure willunearth when she sets out to discover the truth"--… (mer)
Medlem:fderby
Titel:The Madwomen of Paris: A Novel
Författare:Jennifer Cody Epstein (Författare)
Info:Ballantine Books (2023), 336 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek, Önskelista
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Taggar:Ingen/inga

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The Madwomen of Paris: A Novel av Jennifer Cody Epstein

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Based in fact, this story about the dark and often diabolical happenings in the French women’s asylum of the 1800s is more than the mind can imagine. A women deemed “hysterical” could literally be thrown away forever into this monstrous system. La Salpetriere la Vieillesse (Femmes) was an institution founded in the 1600s which housed over three thousand women “in various states of mental distress. “It was effectively a small mad city…”

It should never be forgotten that a man had the final word, a woman had no standing, no power unless she had extraordinary wealth of her own. These men, who we now call or recognize as brilliant, the forefathers of our understanding of the mind, were one short step from being worse than charlatans. Hypnotizing the more glamorous inmates for public consumption to bolster their power, and ego with little or no concern for the ramifications of their actions upon the victim. So enamored of their self-importance and intelligence their positions remained solid, unshakable. With a word a woman could be reduced to less than nothing. As “any woman in Hysteria could have told you…..The men always get away with it. It was a central tenet of our time, unwritten and undisclosed, but as incontrovertible as any upheld in an actual court of law.” Even the doctors who recognized the madness of certain attitudes and procedures were helpless to effect change.

Cody Epstein manages to explore many of the societal issues of the time including an explanation of the Orphan Labor by les petites de Paris which kept the farms outside the cities in business by paying a stipend for these poor working bodies until they were twelve and the public assistance stopped. Without going off track, France was not the only country to adopt this mean spirited program in the guise of helping and protecting the orphan children.

As far as historical fiction goes, there is none better than this exploration and exposition of the horrific treatment of many women who may or may not have been mentally challenged. This was not a fast nor an easy read for me but it was so well researched and meticulously plotted that it was worth every minute. A solid 4-1/2 stars which I am rounding up for effort and importance. Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy. ( )
  kimkimkim | Nov 5, 2023 |
4.5⭐

Set in the Salpêtrière, a women’s asylum in 1800s France, author Jennifer Cody Epstein combines fact and fiction to give us a heartbreaking story that revolves around the plight of women being treated for “hysteria” under the care of renowned neurologist Dr. Jean-Martine Charcot and his team of interns and in the expansive facility, a "small, mad city" that housed “three thousand women in various states of mental distress; two hundred children in its reformatory schools; six hundred doctors, surgeons, internes and externes, nurses, and various other assistants; and over a dozen on-site workshops making everything from copper tools to iron horseshoes to wooden clogs for its patients.

Dr. Charcot’s research into the treatment of hysteria is highly publicized, complete with his famous Friday lecture series wherein he presents the symptoms he treats with hypnosis in a live demonstration with his subject (patient) which is attended by the public. The author references the famous group tableau portrait of 1887 A Clinical Lesson at the Salpêtrière (Une leçon clinique à la Salpêtrière) which depicts a clinical demonstration of the symptoms of hysteria, attended by Dr. Charcot’s students.

The narrative is presented from the perspective of nineteen-year-old Laure Bissonet, a former patient who is presently employed as an attendant. The daughter of a physician, she was institutionalized after an emotional breakdown following the death of her father. Laure hopes to eventually leave the asylum and search for her younger sister with whom she separated when she entered Salpêtrière. The narrative follows Laure as she meets and attends to a newly arrived patient, seventeen-year-old Josephine Garreau, who is institutionalized in with visible injuries, following a failed suicide attempt. She suffers from amnesia, unable to recount the events that led to her attempted suicide. Josephine, apparently highly susceptible to hypnosis soon becomes the star of Dr. Charcot’s Friday lectures and slowly begins to regain her memories which she shares with Laure. Laure and Josephine become close and Laure hopes to leave with Josephine but as the day to their planned escape draws close, Laure notices a behavioral shift in Josephine. Are Dr. Charcot’s methods healing Josephine or intensifying her emotional distress? Is she truly unwell or is she putting on an act and if so, to what end?

The Madwomen of Paris by Jennifer Cody Epstein is a meticulously researched, dark and disturbing yet compelling work of historical fiction that paints a bleak but realistic picture of the workings of the most famous asylum for women in Europe in an era where women had no rights or agency. From what Laure observes and we can make out that many of those termed "hysterics’” were suffering from emotional distress brought on by abuse and traumatic events in their lives or were simply institutionalized by their families for defying societal norms and control.

“The men always get away with it. It was a central tenet of our time, unwritten and undiscussed, but as incontrovertible as any upheld in an actual court of law.”

I truly appreciated the Author’s Note that details the historical context of the story as well as the people and events that inspired the same. The author also sheds light on how the study of mental illness and how the treatment of what was once termed “hysteria” has evolved over time.

This is not an easy read. The author paints a vivid picture of the living conditions (worse for those in the “Lunacy” section of the asylum), the utter disregard for the women under Dr. Charcot’s care, the humiliation of public display and the methods employed in treatment, with other instances of abuse alluded to (thankfully we don’t have to read about such in detail). The characterizations are superb and the narrative flows at an even pace, making for a compelling read.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine and NetGalley for the much-appreciated digital review copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. ( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
Women at the Salpetriere asylum, are hypnotized and labeled with hysteria. Dr. Charcot, the hospital's famous director, exhibits his hysteria patients on stage as he hypnotizes them and performs a variety of experiments. Laure, a former patient, is now working in the wards. When new patient Josephine arrives, they develop a relationship and grow close to one another.

Wow! This book was just fascinating. The author created interesting characters with compelling and heartbreaking back stories. I didn't know about the Dr. Charcot hysteria phenomena before picking up this novel. Once I put it down, I found myself researching the time period. Overall, well worth picking up! ( )
  JanaRose1 | Aug 3, 2023 |
If only this story was pure fiction and not based on historical fact, it might be easier to pass off as macabre entertainment. Yet such is not the case. It is the story of the women of The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital of Paris - a place for women with psychological disorders, many of which were attributable to sexual abuse. It is set in the mid to late nineteenth century as Jean-Martin Charcot, the famous "Father of Neurology" is at the zenith of his career. The story focuses on two women, having been or currently being treated for the predominantly female disorder known as hysteria. The reader is enlightened about the medical treatments and experiments of the day - some of which turned out to be worse than the disorders. At times there are moments of tenderness, kindness and hope in the story.

As difficult as the story was, the writing was exquisite and rather painterly. The scene settings were richly described and the characters well developed. The amount of research which went into the telling is herculean in scope and deftly woven into the story. As difficult as this story was, I believe that it is one truly worth the telling. Sometimes, when we read stories like this, we are reminded how much better are lives are today than in the darker past.

I thank the publisher, Penguin Random House for having provided a complimentary copy of this book. Their generosity, however, has not influenced this review - the words of which are mine alone.

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: July 18, 2023
ISBN: 978-0593158012
No. of pages: 336 ( )
  KateBaxter | Jun 3, 2023 |
Established in the 1600s, the Salpêtrière asylum housed thousands of women with a variety of issues–mental and physical problems; socially unacceptable behavior, like pregnancy outside of marriage and prostitution; plus the elderly, orphaned, infirm and impoverished.

In the late 19th c, Doctor Charcot’s study of women with hysteria involved a detailed survey of the patient physically and mentally. By hypnotizing the women, he would impel them to demonstrate hysteric symptoms in public lectures. One of his patients used in the demonstrating became a media darling, bringing Charcot great acclaim. He photographed his patients, implying the women were in hysteria, their chemises dropping from shoulders lending a disconcerting sexualization.

The Madwomen of Paris imagines the lives of two women in the asylum. One broke down after the death of her father left her homeless and separated from her younger sister. Another tried to jump off a bridge after attacking her employer, who was sexually abusing her.

The novel is disturbing, recounting the lives of women under the complete power of the men at the asylum. The exams and experiments are invasive and upsetting to read. The trauma brought into the hospital is only enforced by the treatment endured there. The story has a Gothic horror to it.

There were helpful contributions arising from Salpêtrière. But the good has been forgotten by the sensational images of the photographs and the stories of women who performed a role for Charcot’s benefit. This novel capitalizes on that sad legacy.

Thanks to the publisher for a free book. ( )
  nancyadair | May 24, 2023 |
Visar 5 av 5
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"A young woman with amnesia falls under the influence of a powerful doctor in Paris's notorious women's asylum, where she must fight to reclaim dangerous memories-and even more perilously, her sanity-in this gripping historical novel inspired by true events, from the bestselling author of Wunderland. "I didn't see her the day she came to the asylum. Looking back, this sometimes strikes me as unlikely. Impossible, even, given how utterly her arrival would upend the already chaotic order of things at the SalpAetriaere-not to mention change the course of my own life there." When Josephine arrives at the SalpAetriaere she is covered in blood and badly bruised. Suffering from near-complete amnesia, she is diagnosed with what the Paris papers are calling "the epidemic of the age": hysteria. It is a disease so baffling and widespread that Doctor Jean-Martine Charcot, the asylum's famous director, devotes many of his popular public lectures to the malady. To Charcot's delight, Josephine also proves extraordinarily susceptible to hypnosis, the tool he uses to unlock hysteria's myriad (and often sensational) symptoms. Soon Charcot is regularly featuring Josephine on his stage, entrancing the young woman into fantastical acts and hallucinatory fits before enrapturedaudiences and eager newsmen-many of whom feature her on their paper's front pages. For Laure, a lonely asylum attendant assigned to Josephine's care, Charcot's diagnosis seems a godsend. A former hysteric herself, she knows better than most that life inthe SalpAetriaere's Hysteria Ward is far easier than in its dreaded Lunacy division, from which few inmates ever return. But as Josephine's fame as Charcot's "star hysteric" grows, her memory starts to return-and with it, images of a horrific crime she believes she's committed. Haunted by these visions, and helplessly trapped in Charcot's hypnotic web, she starts spiraling into actual insanity. Desperate to save the girl she has grown to love, Laure plots their escape from the SalpAetriaere and its doctors. First, though, she must confirm whether Josaephine is actually a madwoman, soon to be consigned to the SalpAetriaere's brutal Lunacy Ward-or a murderer, destined for the guillotine. Both are dark possibilities-but not nearly as dark as what Laure willunearth when she sets out to discover the truth"--

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