This is the buzz of this new school year: Le bal des folles, the first novel by Victoria Mas (daughter of Jeanne, yes yes) is a little gem whose narration takes place at the Salpêtrière hospital .
Welcome to the world of psychiatry in the 19th century and the status of women of the time. Three good reasons not to miss this phenomenon book everyone is talking about ...
For the hallucinating pitch
This ball takes place every year, to the general excitement of the spectators. The patients of the Salpêtrière hospital , in disguise, are asked to put on a show to amuse the Parisian bourgeois who have come to observe the hysterics and maniacs. Are you already shivering? Hold on tight. These crazy balls, initiated by Doctor Charcot , really existed.
It is thus by immersing us in the terrifying wings of the stammering psychiatry of the XIXth century supposed to cure the “ insane ” that Victoria Mas scotches and upsets.
For the badass heroine
Among the patients of the Salpêtrière , there is Louise, impatient to receive the marriage proposal from her caregiver; there is Geneviève, the nurse as old as the walls who wonders about the look on her patients; and then Eugenie, a young woman interned by her father because of her gifts of spiritualism.
Ready to do anything to get out of this terribly distressing establishment, Eugenie is determined to upset the archaic balance of the hospital. Impossible not to get attached to this badass heroine with ideas too modern for her time and her conservative family.
For the feminist touch
At a time when it was better to be born a man, the “ mad ” at La Salpêtrière were none other than raped, traumatized women, a bit too emancipated or guilty of adultery.
Of course , all these patients were taken to the hospital (itself run by male doctors) by men. Did you say patriarchy?
In short, go headlong into this hypnotizing novel which explores the female condition and the relationship to madness.
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Le Bal des Folles by Victoria Mas, Albin Michel, 256 pages, € 18.90