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Madwoman set in a New York Asylum

  • Submitted: 27th May 2022

Madwoman set in a New York Asylum

Remember the name Nellie Bly. This story is aboutthis real life figure from history who I had heard about as she was a secret booktrailer. Yes, she loved Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days that she went on the very same journey in an attempt to beat Phileas Fogg record. And she did. By  a week.

Now this is really all I knew about her. That, and the fact she was the world’s first investigative journalist. That second, and arguably more important fact is her work in getting admitted to an asylum so she could spy from the inside and show what was really going on inside.

 BookTrail Travel to the locations in Madwoman

Madwoman set in a New York Asylum


Boarding Pass Information: Madwoman

Destination : A New York asylum

Author guide: Louisa Treger

Genre: historical/inspired by real life story

Food and drink to accompany: something that fits in a small bag




 BookTrail Travel to the locations in Madwoman

I had heard of Nellie Bly before but not to this level. I first came across her as I read once that she loved the novel Around the world in80 days by Jules Verne and she wanted to try and do that same journey for real and beat Phileas Fogg record. Well, she did, bu one week. She has been my hero ever since but I have not really read much more about her apart from that bookish fact.

Well, didn’t I get a surprise to find out that the was so much more than my BookTrail hero! Nellie Bly was infact the first female investigative journalist. She grew up in Pennsylvania in 1870s and had a father who was strong and encouraged her to read, follow politics and be educated. He gave her a great start in life as he encouraged her to research for him. Eventually, she became a journalist and wanted to enter what was, and often still is, a man’s world. She witnessed her mum being abused by her second husband and so that makes her all the more determined to stand up for herself and stand out.

Madwoman set in a New York Asylum

 BookTrail Travel to the locations in Madwoman

She writes a piece on working women and the conditions and treatment they face and well, the masculine world of journalism wakes up but becomes wary of her. I loved the way this strengthened her and pushed her even further. She starts writing more hard hitting pieces about things that really matter and rankles a few feathers along the way. Go on Nelly I was shouting at this point. We need people like this as role models in schools and everywhere.

I was fascinated and appalled by the things and conditions in society she wrote about. Well, people and poor children had no chance did they? She wrote harsh but true articles and then moves to New York where she feels she can really start writing about the hard stuff. She then has the idea of getting an inside scoop on the controversial asylum of its day on Blackwell’s island – now know as Roosevelt island. That’s when I really started to edge closer to the edge of my seat. Ever since the novel opened I had been restless and edging my way forward but now….

 BookTrail Travel to the locations in Madwoman

Madwoman set in a New York Asylum

Inside that asylum I stopped breathing. You really have to discover this for yourself as Nelly does. It’s shocking and so very , very sad and tragic. Imagine pretending to be insane and so you get committed to such a place, only then have to act ‘ mad’ so you can go undercover in plain sight and reveal the truth about this place and others like it?

By this time in the novel I was championing Nelly so strongly, I almost had a placard in my hands and felt like standing on a box in the middle of Roosevelt island to tell the world what she was doing and why.  The setting of the asylum will haunt me for some time to come and it was so vivid and fascinating that I had chills down my spine as she uncovered layers of wrongdoing, claustrophobia, ill treatment and so much worse.

Nelly you are a true hero and what she did, how she did it and why was just remarkable to read about. I knew I liked her after the Jules Verne connection but now? Everyone should know about her. I realise this is a fictional retelling but you can tell Nelly is one of those women in history that really does need her story to be told. Although I get the impression she would be more than capable of telling it herself if she could.

 BookTrail Travel to the locations in Madwoman


Postcard details:  Access The BookTrail’s Map of Locations and travel guide here

More books set in New York here

More books set in asylums here



BookTrail Boarding Pass:Madwoman

Twitter:@louisatreger  Web: //louisatreger.com/

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