The Madwomen of Paris

The Madwomen of Paris

A Novel

About the Book

Two women fall under the influence of a powerful doctor in Paris’s notorious women’s asylum in this gripping historical novel inspired by true events, from the bestselling author of Wunderland.

When Josephine arrives at the Salpêtrière asylum, she is covered in blood, badly bruised, and suffering from amnesia. She is quickly diagnosed with what the Paris papers are calling “the epidemic of the age”: hysteria, a disease is so baffling and widespread that Doctor Jean-Martin Charcot, the asylum’s famous director, devotes many of his popular public lectures to the malady. Charcot often uses hypnosis to prompt his patients to reproduce their hysterical symptoms, and to his delight, Josephine proves extraordinarily susceptible to this unconscious manipulation. He is soon featuring the young woman on his stage, entrancing her into fantastical acts and hallucinatory fits before enraptured audiences and eager newsmen—many of whom feature her on their papers’ front pages.

Laure, a ward attendant assigned to care for Charcot’s new favorite, knows that Josephine’s diagnosis is a godsend. Life in the Salpêtrière’s Hysteria ward is far easier than in its dreaded Lunacy division, from which few inmates ever return. But as Josephine’s fame grows, her memory starts to returnand with it, images of a terrible crime she’s convinced she’s committed. Haunted by these visions, and ensnared in Charcot’s hypnotic web, she starts spiraling into seeming insanity. Desperate to save the girl she has grown to love, Laure begins to plot their escape from the Salpêtrière and its doctors. First, though, she must confirm whether Josephine is truly a madwoman, doomed to die in the asylumor a murderer, destined for the guillotine.

Both are dark possibilitiesbut not nearly as dark as what Laure unearths when she sets out to discover the truth.
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Praise for The Madwomen of Paris

Praise for the novels of Jennifer Cody Epstein

“Searing . . . a heartbreaking page-turner.”People, on Wunderland

“An epic about friendship and family set against an inherently emotional, dramatic backdrop . . . a story that feels tragic and brutal and true.”USA Today, on Wunderland

“Engrossing . . . Moving between decades and continents, Epstein reveals the devastating choices these women make.”Real Simple, on Wunderland

“Both heartbreaking and hopeful, this story of a daughter searching for the truth about her mother’s secret past, tangled up in old secrets and terrible lies, kept me up late turning pages.”—Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls, on Wunderland

“A beautiful and haunting and utterly magnificent novel: a wrenching tale of friendship and betrayal . . . It’s also a page-turner that kept me reading util two in the morning one night and three in the morning the next. It’s that good.”—Chris Bohjalian, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant, on Wunderland

“Epstein’s triumphant second novel is a big, visceral, achingly humane portrait of wartime Japan and several Americans charged with building and destroying it. The sweep of Epstein’s vision is matched by her empathetic attention to the smallest details in the lives of the people who inhabit it.”—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, on The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

“What a pleasure . . . [a] luminous first novel . . . [Epstein] brings palpably to life the degradations these young women are subjected to. . . . An irresistible story.”The New York Times, on The Painter of Shanghai

“Epstein’s spotless pace, vivid characterization and often-breathtaking descriptions elevate the novel . . . to become its own distinctive canvas. . . . Epstein’s true achievement [is] in resurrecting such a passionate woman who pursued a life of her own despite intrinsic barriers.”Chicago Tribune, on The Painter of Shanghai
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About the Author

Jennifer Cody Epstein
Jennifer Cody Epstein is the internationally bestselling author of The Painter from Shanghai, Wunderland, and The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, which won the Asian/Pacific American Honor Award for Literature for Adult Fiction. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Self, Mademoiselle, and others. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and an MA in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Epstein lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters. More by Jennifer Cody Epstein
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