Hello Book Lovers!
I’m back today to share with you another amazing book I’ve just finished reading. I feel like I am on a bit of a roll at the moment and like I’m making a good dent in my huge pile of books. Long may this continue!
The book I want to share with you today is The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Mas. This book has a stunning cover (there’s a theme starting…) and focuses on two strong female characters. Taking us back to Paris in 1885, this short novel packs a huge punch and has left me wanting more. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did.
What’s it all about?
The Salpetriere Asylum: Paris, 1885 where the women are deemed mad or hysterical. However, things really are not as they seem and behind each woman lies a story of betrayal, misunderstanding and fear of what they really know. Under the control of Doctor Charcot, his public displays of hypnotism is enthralling for the audiences who appear. But what about these women? Why are they there? Why are they societies outcasts and who makes that decision?
The two leading ladies of the novel are Eugenie and Genevieve. Their stories become entwined as each woman needs the other in order to survive.
‘Madwomen fascinate and horrify. Were these people to visit the asylum for the late-morning rounds, they would surely be disappointed.’
We learn more about Genevieve first. The head nurse at the asylum, she is stoic and proud. She takes her role at the asylum incredibly seriously and feels like she really is supporting the advance in medicine by working with Doctor Charcot. The women are becoming particularly agitated because of the annual Lenten Ball (Mad Woman’s Ball) the event where the rich come and observe these weak women. For the women, it is their small window of opportunity – to be seen and heard. Head Nurse Genevieve has her own quirk, like the women she cares for – she writes letters to her dead sister. There are hundreds that are stored in the bottom of her wardrobe. It means she feels close to her and she still can live on.
‘She gets up and opens the wardrobe, in which several cardboard boxes are stacked next to the dresses on their hangers. Genevieve picks up the topmost box. Inside are more than a hundred envelopes like the one she is holding.’
Eugenie is incredibly gifted and what you would call, a woman before her time. When I was reading this I was completely taken with her but also terribly afraid for her. My fears would soon become reality. The first incident of note was when she found her grandmother’s pendant after being guided by her dead grandfather. After some forceful probing mixed with love and respect for her grandmother, she reveals that she can see dead people. She confides in her grandmother but ultimately this would turn out to be a mistake. Despite this, Eugenie knows that she isn’t alone and that other people can do what she can, but it is all too much for her father who sends her to the asylum and disowns her.
“No one talks to dead unless the devil is involved. I will not have such things under my roof. As far as I am concerned, I no longer have a daughter.”
Meanwhile at the asylum, spirits are high as everyone is getting ready for the ball. Whilst setting in, the two women are not quite sure how to take each other. However, Eugenie knows about the letters Genevieve has been writing to her sister. Alarmed at first, curious second, Genevieve is unsure what to do. She’s torn by wanting that connection with her sister but also considering her position within the hospital. She absolutely cannot be a part of this ‘madness’. And yet…
‘Eugenie’s eyes are closed now, her tone changed. Although her voice is the same, she speaks in a monotone as though reciting a text that has no meaning. Terrified, Genevieve retreats, pressing herself against the door.’
The relationship between the two women change and they are no longer nurse/patient. Genevieve believes her and feels that she needs to repay the kindness shown to her. The two women help each other, sacrifice themselves for each other. The ball isn’t going to the be the same this year. Eugenie will finally get an opportunity for a fresh start away from the family that betrayed her. Genevieve makes the ultimate sacrifice.
“Existence is fascinating, don’t you think?”
This book is incredible. We see the horrors of how women used to be treated, just because they thought differently or believed differently. We see the value of friendship and sacrifice. We see the need and want for spirits to guide and support. We also see the fears of the time too. Life was very different in 1880s Paris and despite this being a fictional piece, it is clear that it is influenced. The overall thing I enjoyed most was the fact that women reign supreme and stand tall despite being different and wanting to challenge boundaries and constraints of the time. These 200 pages are beautiful and essential. What a stunning book.
Big love xxx
14 thoughts on “The Mad Women’s Ball – Victoria Mas”
It is so shameful how women were treated in the past – chattel and disposable. Makes me grateful to be living in this era.
I agree completely. I can’t imagine what it was like for them. This book was really well written though.
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It was a really well written book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you’re well.
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I have this on my shelf, I think I’ll move it up a bit! Great review.
Oh excellent! Do let me know how you find it. I’ll keep an eye out on your blog!!
It really was! I did enjoy it. The power of womanhood shines through!
I love how you reviewed the story referencing 2 life paths and their mysterious crossings. And, I assume, they were not by accident.
Not by accident, you are correct. 😊
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Oh I want to read this, Books and Bakes! Thanks for the review and recommendation 🙂
I really think it would be something you enjoy, Book Club Mom! X
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