Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book Review: Ten Days in a Mad-House

Ten Days in a Mad-House

Author: Nellie Bly

Release DateNovember 12, 2015 (first published in 1887)

Publisher: Firework Press

Dates Read: March 24 - April 6, 2016

How Acquired: Free Download from Amazon

Ten Days in a Mad-House is a book written by newspaper reporter Nellie Bly and published by Norman L. Munro in New York, NY in 1887. The book comprised Bly's reportage for the New York World while on an undercover assignment in which she feigned insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island.

The book's graphic depiction of conditions at the asylum caused a sensation, brought Bly lasting fame and prompted a grand jury to launch its own investigation, with Bly assisting. The jury's report resulted in an $850,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections. (Taken from

My Review
I actually found this book very fascinating. Which is strange because normally I struggle with non-fiction. 

For the sake of a news story, Nellie faked insanity and spent ten days in an insane asylum. She described in detail how she and the other patients were treated as well as describing the asylum itself. I found it interesting just how many of the women she encountered that she felt were perfectly sane, just as herself. But, as she put it "the insane asylum on Blackwell's Island is a human rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out." 

According to her descriptions, the treatment of the patients was awful and it's no wonder some of the sane ones went insane as time passed. They were served inedible food, bathed once a week (all in the same water) and given thin clothing to wear so they suffered from the unbearable cold. 

The nurses were the ones that treated the patients so horribly, but when the patients complained to the doctors, the doctors felt that it was just the insanity talking. I was astonished that the doctors would literally ask the women a handful of questions, listen to their hearts and look at their eyes and determine their sanity. Seriously!?!? It's a wonder no one got out of there. 

I just cannot imagine having to go through that...not as an actual patient nor as Nellie. I would have felt so awful to know that I was faking and going to get out and all those other women were going to be stuck there. 

Though I'm sure it was more to get a story than to make things better, Nellie did a service to the mental health industry by exposing things. Upon her return to the island, there had been improvements made, but some of it was just "swept under the rug" as well. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was an interesting perspective.

My Rating: I liked it

No comments:

Post a Comment