The Mad Women’s Ball: A Novel
Set within the halls of the infamous Salpetriere asylum, Victoria Mas’s The Mad Women’s Ball sets its reader on a gripping adventure across nineteenth-century Paris. The story follows the dwellers of the asylum, both patients and staff, and sets a compassionate but poignant tone as it unravels the history of hysteria, a medical phenomenon weaponized against women in a proudly patriarchal society. Shut off from the rest of the world, the patients and prisoners of the Salpetriere create their own community where the abandoned, feared and hated may find refuge and love. As the facade of medical hysteria and its distorted portrait of the madwoman begin to shatter, the characters begin to doubt and challenge the social systems that have coddled, dismissed, and institutionalized women’s psyche.
Translated from its original French to English, the novel’s writing is rich with cultural and historical references, painting a vivid picture of La Belle Epoque while simultaneously interrogating its gilded pillars. In its richness, the narration felt heavy-handed at times, drawing parallels for the reader where there were opportunities to allow them to come to their own conclusions. Although this allowed an immersive look into the mind and heart of the story, it slowed the reading experience and kept the reader from developing a more personal connection to the characters.
|The Overlook Press
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller