A review of Mad Woman by Louisa Treger

Mad Woman is a fascinating novel about the pioneering Elizabeth Cochran, first female investigative journalist to break through the male dominated arena.  

 Elizabeth aka Nellie Bly sets out from Pittsburgh, where she’d already written some controversial articles for the local paper, and heads for New York and The World to pursue her dream of becoming a serious reporter.

Life in the city is incredibly tough… but so is Nellie. Her money has dried up and time is running out. She comes up with an outrageous idea: to pretend madness and have herself committed to the asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Once inside, she will stay undercover, experience the institution’s conditions first hand and write a story no one else could ever come up with.

The asylum door does indeed swing shut behind Nellie and Louisa Treger steps up her pace at this point in the story. She draws us in to the daily horrors her character endures. The author’s scrupulous research and mesmerising style of writing, bring the ordeal to life and I found myself plunged into the cruellest institution imaginable.

Cold, isolated and starving, Nellie’s days of terror reawaken the traumatic events of her childhood, which she explores with the one compassionate doctor allocated to her.

Nellie entered the horrendous asylum of her own free will – but will her new employers really rescue her as they’ve promised?

An extraordinary portrait of a woman way ahead of her time, Madwoman is the story of a quest for the truth that changed the world. It is a tale that simply had to be told and Treger does it with sensitivity and tremendous skill.

Would I recommend Mad Woman? Absolutely and without reservation.

Source: I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this novel.

Review by Gail Gilbride

Author of Under the African Sun.

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