The Madwomen of Paris
When Josephine arrives at the Salpêtrière asylum, she’s covered in blood and suffering from amnesia. She’s soon diagnosed with what the 19th-century Parisian press has dubbed “the epidemic of the age”: hysteria. It’s a disease so uniquely baffling that the Salpêtrière’s famous director, Jean-Martin Charcot, devotes popular public lectures to it, using hypnosis to prompt fantastical symptoms in “hysterical” patients. Young, charismatic, and highly susceptible to entrancement, Josephine quickly becomes the powerful doctor’s favorite subject, regularly mesmerized into fits and delusions before enraptured Parisian audiences. But her true ally at the Salpêtrière is Laure, a lonely ward attendant who saves Josephine from the dreaded Lunacy ward. As their friendship blossoms, the two women find comfort—and even happiness—together despite their bleak surroundings. Soon, though, Josephine’s memory returns, and with it images of a gruesome crime she’s convinced she’s committed. Ensnared in Charcot’s hypnotic web, she starts spiraling so convincingly into true insanity that Laure begins plotting their escape. First, though, she must solve a grim mystery: who, really, is the girl she’s grown to love? Is Josephine a madwoman…or a murderer? Expertly researched and masterfully written, The Madwomen of Paris is a true Gothic saga with themes that remain chillingly resonant today.
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