The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Mas. Translated by Frank Wynne

Published: 2021. Originally published in 2019 in French as “Le Bal des folles” 1. First lines. 2. Cover Penguin 5. Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris [CC BY 4.0] via Wikimedia 3. Woman’s face [Public Domain] via Picryl 4. Ball gown [Public Domain] via Picryl

In Paris in 1885, a young woman called Eugenie is committed to an asylum by her family. It is just before the annual ball, when members of Parisian society attend, eager to observe the spectacle. Eugenie befriends a nurse called Genevieve who is caught up in Eugenie’s plan to escape.

“Although madness in men is not the same as madness in women: men use it against others; women turn it on themselves.”

BOOK SNAPS: Just as the New Zealand Herald, I also thought that Victoria Mas “evokes a time and place, creating vibrant fictional characters from real lives”. I felt that the author dealt with subjects that could have been dark and dramatic with sensitivity and subtlety. The New York Journal of Books assessment is that The Mad Women’s Ball “glosses over any sensationalism and opts for a character study of one woman’s humanity and sacrifice.” “Mas’s dark tale will have readers transfixed.” (Publishers Weekly)


“Dawn breaks over Paris. The streets are already bustling with early risers. Along the Seine and the Canal Saint-Martin, dozens of washerwomen are heading towards the washhouse boats, their backs bent beneath the weight of the laundry sacks belonging to well-heeled families.”

She has found it difficult to believe in a heaven and a hell that are eternal – life already seems like a form of punishment, and the idea that this punishment would continue after death seems absurd and unjust.

Author: Victoria Mas

Adaptation: The Mad Women’s Ball (French: Le Bal des folles) is a 2021 French film directed by Mélanie Laurent, and stars Laurent, and Lou de Laâge.

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