Review of The Madwomen of Paris

Rebecca Graf
3 min readOct 31, 2023

Note: This review contains affiliate links that will result in monetary compensation if clicked on and purchases are made. This book was received free of charge from a third party with no expectation of a positive review.

We’ve all heard of asylums in Europe during the 19th and ealry 20th century, but did you know that there was an “outbreak” of hysteria in Paris in the mid-19th century that brought Dr. Jean-Mare Charcot to the height of popularity by taking over the head position of Salpetriere, an asylum for women. Hysteria was the catch all for any number of conditions we recognize today including plain stress, but it was an easy out for those who wanted to get rid of irritating wives, mothers, daughters, or servants. They were admitted and then “treated”. Treatment usually involved what we would call torture or unethical experiments. It was a very dark moment for women and did not help in the understanding of many conditions even in today’s world.

This story is told through the eyes of one former patient. She has become an employee of the asylum after being “cured”. As she sees these women being forgotten by the world, she begins to keep a journal to tell their stories so they won’t be lost forever. During her time, she encounters a new patient who changes her world and her perception of the world around her. She takes the reader into a dark and torturous time that will have you unable to believe that man could be so ignorant and cruel.

This story is very intense. No, it doesn’t describe explicit sexual acts or gore, but what is not specifically discussed is very much present. The author artistically presents the reader scenes from a time of horror in a way that will live with you forever. The veiled descriptions are powerful and emotional. It had me holding my breath as the images played out in front of me. I had no doubt what had happened though the book never describes the scene. The results displayed in the patients painted the picture in my imagination.

Most of the scenes are played out on the grounds of the asylum which almost makes the reader an inmate along with the poor women we are introduced to. They are flawed. Some have serious mental health issues. Others have neurological ailments such as Parkinson’s. Yet they are treated as objects and tested for their ability to be…

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Rebecca Graf

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman. www.writerrebeccagraf.com