The Madwomen of Paris, a review by Shelley

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Jennifer Cody Epstein

Random House Publishing Group | Ballantine Books
Publication Date: July 18th, 2023
336 Pages
Goodreads | Amazon

She was squarely in the sights of two powerful men who had different versions of hell for her. One sought to subjugate her body for physical pleasure, the other her mind for professional gain. Inevitably, she would fight them both. Equally inevitably, she would lose.

This was such a sad book, especially since it’s inspired by a real asylum. The author did a wonderful job in her research notably those regarding the popular mental health doctors of the time. My how far the research and help of mental health issues have come. Imagine being considered a hysteric for simply having depression or a physical ailment like seizures. I noticed too that they liked to institutionalize strong willed women. I would have never survived back then.

Although the storyline was a dark one the author wrote about a woman who has a heart and cares about the patients she looks after. Being considered cured of her ailment, Laure takes a new ward under her wing and tries her best to keep her safe. Both Laure and Josephine are strong female characters and I loved that about them.

Jennifer Cody Epstein weaves fact and fiction together seamlessly and it was hard to read about the treatment of these women, some who didn’t even belong there. But I also found it very informative and educational and I couldn’t put the book down. This takes place in the late nineteenth century and men had all the power back then, women’s rights advocates were just coming into their own in Paris at the time. The ending was really surprising and I just adored our main character, Laure.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the Advance Readers Copy.

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