Book Review: Madwoman

Louisa Treger ~ Madwoman


In 1887, young Nellie Bly sets out for New York and a career in journalism, determined to make her way as a serious reporter, whatever that may take.

But life in the city is tougher than she imagined. 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. There, she will work undercover to expose the asylum’s wretched conditions.

But when the asylum door swings shut behind her, she finds herself in a place of horrors, governed by a cruelty she could never have imagined. Cold, isolated and starving, her days of terror reawaken the traumatic events of her childhood. She entered the asylum of her own free will – but will she ever get out?


What a fantastic book!

There have been many wonderful women throughout history and some of their stories are almost unbelievable. Nellie Bly was a journalist who had herself committed to an asylum to expose the shocking treatment of women.

In Madwoman, Louisa Treger provides us with a story inspired by this period of Nellie’s life. Touching on her childhood, where Nellie first realised that men and women were not equal, it follows her to New York where she attempts to make a name for herself.

While her behaviour might seem extreme, it helped to change the treatment of mental health patients.

Treger paints a vivid picture of America in the late 1900s, so real that we can almost smell the streets and hear the screams. The chapters dealing with the asylum are heart-wrenching: raw and revolting; the staff within malicious and tyrannical.

It’s a tough read at times, because we know it’s real. Yet what comes across the most is Nellie’s determination, resilience and courage. Her desire to help, to risk herself for the other women is inspiring, especially considering how affected she was by her time as a patient in the asylum.

Madwoman will make you sad, angry and determined to fight for what is right, no matter what the cost.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received a copy of Madwoman (published by Bloosmbury) from the author. Opinions my own.

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