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Review: Madwoman by Louisa Treger

About the Book

Via Jonathan Ball Publishers

In 1887 young Nellie Bly sets out for New York and a career in journalism, determined to make her way as a serious reporter, whatever that may take.

But life in the city is tougher than she imagined. Down to her last dime and desperate to prove her worth, she comes up with a dangerous plan: to fake insanity and have herself committed to the asylum that looms on Blackwell’s Island. There, she will work undercover to document – and expose – the wretched conditions faced by the patients.

But when the asylum door swings shut behind her, she finds herself in a place of horrors, governed by a harshness and cruelty she could never have imagined. Cold, isolated and starving, her days of terror reawaken the traumatic events of her childhood. She entered the asylum of her own free will – but will she ever get out?

An extraordinary portrait of a woman way ahead of her time, Madwoman is the story of a quest for the truth that changed the world.

Madwoman by Louisa Treger

My Thoughts

It is America, in the late 1800s and a woman should know her place in society.  If she is allowed to work, she surely can’t expect to get job that requires much more than cooking and looking pretty for her husband.  That life does not appeal to Nellie Bly though, she refuses to accept that she can’t follow her passion, that is being an investigative journalist, simply because she was born female.  “Madwoman” is a fictionalised account of this very specific period in Nelly Bly’s life.

Feisty Nellie’s determination and drive leads her to make a very risky deal with the newspaper editor.  She will get herself committed to the dreaded mental asylum on Blackwell’s Island and come back to tell the world about her experiences.

What she lives through there, in a relatively short period, will make your hair stand on end.  It is typical of the time though, “female hysteria” being treated with electric shock, the abhorrent treatment mental patients are exposed to.  I guess that is what made this even more extraordinary and immersive for me, is to know that, although the book is fiction, these things happened in real life.

I was deeply engrossed and passionately invested in “Madwoman”.   Author Louisa Treger created a realistic account of that period, giving us a deep insight into the woman that was Nellie Bly, evoking strong emotions as the story goes along.   I devoured the book in a couple of sittings. I just HAD to know how it ends!

Thank you to the author and Jonathan Ball Publishers for the opportunity to experience this harrowing but brilliant tale!

About the author:  Louisa Treger

RRR (Roelia Reads Rating) is 5/5!