Coffee Pot Blog Tour: A Feigned Madness by Tonya Mitchell
Welcome Readers to another stop on the Coffee Pot Blog Tour. Today we are doing a review of A Feigned Madness by author Tonya Mitchell. Here's a little bit about Tonya.
Ever since reading Jane Eyre in high school, Tonya Mitchell has been drawn to dark stories of the gothic variety. Her influences include Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker. More contemporarily, she loves the work of Agatha Christie, Margaret Atwood, and Laura Purcell. When she landed on a story about a woman who feigned insanity in order to go undercover in an insane asylum, she knew she’d landed on something she was meant to write. Her short fiction has appeared in, among other publications, Glimmer and Other Stories and Poems, for which she won the Cinnamon Press award in fiction. She is a self-professed Anglophile and is obsessed with all things relating to the Victorian period. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society North America and resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and three wildly energetic sons. A Feigned Madness is her first novel.
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. —Nellie Bly
Elizabeth Cochrane has a secret.
She isn’t the madwoman with amnesia the doctors and inmates at Blackwell’s Asylum think she is.
In truth, she’s working undercover for the New York World. When the managing editor refuses to hire her because she’s a woman, Elizabeth strikes a deal: in exchange for a job, she’ll impersonate a lunatic to expose a local asylum’s abuses.
When she arrives at the asylum, Elizabeth realizes she must make a decision—is she there merely to bear witness, or to intervene on behalf of the abused inmates? Can she interfere without blowing her cover? As the superintendent of the asylum grows increasingly suspicious, Elizabeth knows her scheme—and her dream of becoming a journalist in New York—is in jeopardy.
A Feigned Madness is a meticulously researched, fictionalized account of the woman who would come to be known as daredevil reporter Nellie Bly. At a time of cutthroat journalism, when newspapers battled for readers at any cost, Bly emerged as one of the first to break through the gender barrier—a woman who would, through her daring exploits, forge a trail for women fighting for their place in the world.
A Feigned Madness by Tonya Mitchell
Published: 6 October 2020
Publisher: Cennen Books of Cynren Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400 print
Available: paperback, ebook
Sex: 💗 none
Violence: 😨 some, nothing too graphic
Reviewers Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Plot in Brief: A Feigned Madness is the fictionalized story of reporter Elizabeth Cochrane who went by the byline of Nellie Bly. She made a name for herself when she took an assignment for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. Undercover, Nellie was admitted to the notorious women's asylum for ten days. Author Mitchell fleshes out her narrative both before and during her frightening experience.
The History: Meticulously researched this novel brings to life not only the reporter Elizabeth Cochrane but the world in which she inhabited and the societal constraints against which she fought. To write her story, Nellie found a way to be admitted to the Woman's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. Nellie's articles about her experience were published as a book called Ten Days in a Madhouse was a sensation.
From trolley car rides to the flower shows of the Upper East Side, New York comes to life, before plunging into the horrifying confines of the women's asylum. The misogynistic treatment and attitude towards women is on full display. It will break your heart.
The Writing: The writing is good. The story is told in third person/past tense. My major complaint is that there is a lot of back and forth between two time periods in Elizabeth's life which I found utterly confusing at first, I eventually got it worked out, but I felt it hampered the flow of the narrative. Other readers may disagree.
Overall: I really enjoyed the story of Elizabeth Cochrane. It's so refreshing to read about a courageous young woman who bucked the system that tried to keep women penned in her kitchen under the control of a husband. I always say, historical fiction is successful when you want to read more about the subject and this is true for this book. I had to look up Nellie Bly and read more about her amazing life.
Rating: I give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ 4 1/2 stars