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Madwoman: Nellie Bly

Madwoman: Nellie Bly

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If you are someone who does not mind being explicitly told what the message is, give this book a go! The daughter of a judge, ‘Pink’ as she was nicknamed by her family, was encouraged to be curious and learn about a range of subjects, including those generally thought to be unsuitable for women at the time.

Down to her last dime and desperate to prove her worth, she comes up with a dangerous plan to fake insanity and have herself committed to the asylum on Blackwell's Island. In New York, she convinced a leading newspaper publisher to allow her to go undercover by faking insanity and be confined to the notorious Blackwell insane asylum to report on the horrific conditions therein.It's a fascinating story which resists any temptation to sensationalise, treating all the inmates of Blackwell's Island with sympathy and humanity and bringing these people - who really lived, a century and half ago, and, many of them, died, in that place - back to life to speak to us. Oh, and I loved loved loved the ending so much, it felt just right considering the character’s ambitions and growth! jarring to go between sensational prose and the dry dialogue and internal monologue that pervades most of the book. The writing was all tell and very little show, keeping us far removed from Nellie (think "Nellie felt sad remembering her father" rather than "The doctor clenched his fist as he spoke, just as her father used to—she caught herself sighing at the memory").

Eventually, she became a journalist and wanted to enter what was, and often still is, a man’s world. There, she will work undercover to document – and expose – the wretched conditions faced by the patients. Treger's story, which in its first half explores and interprets Nellie's early life diligently, really takes fire in its second part as it touches on what Nellie might have been thinking and feeling as she was locked all night in a rat-infested cell; forcibly dunked in filthy, cold water; or half strangled by a vengeful nurse after speaking out about conditions. This was a time where women could be deemed insane for simply falling in or out of love or having the wrong opinion, and once you were behind that locked door you were usually left to rot.

Madwoman by Louisa Treger was a fascinating historical novel based on the life and trailblazing work of the woman who became known as Nellie Bly. Blackwell’s Island and it’s grey and hostile nature were a stark contrast to the city, and is managed very well by the author. Nelly you are a true hero and what she did, how she did it and why was just remarkable to read about. The New York newspapers are uninterested in Nellie’s previous success, women journalists are not welcome on Park Row. Treger definitely gets across how awful those places were, and the horrors that were committed against people.

It takes her to slums where whole families do everything in one room, deprived of privacy and dignity. Her father encouraged her interest in factual accounts, and her mother told her imaginative stories. Once released from the asylum, her article is published, and she campaigns successfully for changes to the system. She wrote harsh but true articles and then moves to New York where she feels she can really start writing about the hard stuff.Nellie was determined to make her mark on history, and her stories of cruelty and abuse at The Blackwell Island asylum are terrifying and heartbreaking. The story of Nellie Bly, a young woman journalist who fakes mental breakdown and goes to an asylum undercover, is fascinating and brutal. An education via her father, who’s a judge, and stories fuelling her imagination by way of her mother. Madwoman‘ has everything I look for in historical fiction and I flew through its pages like a woman possessed.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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