The Strange Case of Madeleine Seguin

Author(s) : William Rose

The Strange Case of Madeleine Seguin

Book Details

  • Publisher : Sphinx
  • Published : December 2018
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 248
  • Category :
    Fiction: historical
  • Category 2 :
  • Catalogue No : 93841
  • ISBN 13 : 9781912573608
  • ISBN 10 : 1912573601
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It is Paris in the 1880s and the century is in its final decadent throes as it moves towards the fin de siecle. New scientific ideas are countered by a resurgent interest in the practice of magic, whilst in the arts the Symbolists are exploring the strangeness of dream and the imagination.

In the Salpêtrière Hospital, hundreds of female patients are suffering from the curious malady of 'hysteria'. Many of these are being treated by hypnosis under the regime of the celebrated and charismatic Professor J-M. Charcot. One such patient is Madeleine Seguin, a young woman whose past is a mystery and who evokes a fascination and possessiveness in those who come close to her.

As well as the doctors Madeleine will encounter a young Symbolist artist, a Catholic priest, a powerful aristocrat, and most dangerously, those practising the darkest aspects of the occult, each of whom will try to save or corrupt her. She must survive them all if she is to shape her own destiny.

About the Author(s)

William Rose was born and continues to live in London. He has had, for many years, a special interest in both the art of the Symbolist movement and the early development of psychoanalysis, two areas of cultural purpose that in their own very different ways, aimed to free the human psyche from the limitations of repression.

More titles by William Rose

Reviews & Endorsements

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L. P. Charles on 06/02/2019

What more interesting period could there possibly be in which to set a story than the 1880s in Paris? This is a fascinating read, building to an unexpectedly dark and enthralling climax. We take a close look at the rudimentary beginnings of psychiatry when the newly discovered subconscious mind was obsessing psychologists, philosophers and artists alike. William Rose cleverly weaves together these themes - the emerging symbolist art movement and the sensational new discoveries of Professor Charcot at the Salpetriere mental institution.
The story is told from the perspective of several contrasting characters who happen to come together for a brief period - an aristocrat, a young aspiring artist, a priest, and Charcot himself, among others, unfolding their stories through a series of letters. I enjoyed this technique, but of course it does give the author an interesting challenge when it comes to construction. However, I feel he has really pulled it off, writing with a fluent, readable style, that never loses its authentic period flavour and elegance. This means that the text may seem dense and over-rich at times but once you are involved with the characters you will enjoy the carefully observed detail and be transported to another era.
I will say nothing about the enigmatic Madeleine of the title, for you must discover her for yourself. I found this book thoroughly absorbing and highly recommend it.

S. C. Thompson on 06/02/2019

I thought this book looked interesting but had no idea it would be so gripping! It gave me lots to think about and I found out quite a bit about art and psychotherapy in the late 1800s. Woven into the story are the rich themes of spirituality and religion, good versus evil and of course love. It's epic!
Chapter one describes what happens at the infamous Salpêtrière hospital nearly 100 years before the letters and case notes begin, introducing us to the story of Madeleine Seguin. This format I found worked really well as we are introduced to a number of key people in Madeleine's life who are all, for their own personal reasons, fascinated and affected by her. There's art, science and the occult which are explored in events at the hospital - hypnosis being one important thread - and in Paris cafes by notable artists and scientists - contemporaries of Freud who was just starting out. The narrative bowls along as each writer has his or her own angle and, whether they want to help or harm Madeleine, become more intent on pursuing their own outcomes - all with Madeleine at the centre. I found I could not put the book down towards the end. A great read.

D. Fagin on 06/02/2019

This is a book of history, intrigue, art and psychoanalysis.
It begins with the massacres of the French Revolution followed by the incarceration of beggars and prostitutes to the Salpêtrière asylum. The journey continues as the Salpêtrière becomes the Mecca for neurology. Interwoven and key to the development of a new scientific project, i.e. Treating traumatic and hysterical paralysis with hypnosis is Madeleine Seguin.
The role of sexuality in neurotic disturbances is explored whilst Madeleine's keepers are portrayed as having eroticised thoughts towards her.
We know little or nothing about who she (really) is but she rapidly becomes the object of desire for those who compete to possess her, represented by the hospital, the world of Art, the Church and the aristocracy.
Madeleine is a thing of beauty, she is unobtainable as well as being seemingly impoverished and dependent whilst a prisoner/patient at the Salpêtrière. Is her freedom a reality or a state of mind?

C. Leader on 06/02/2019

This is an absorbing read with a great narrative that moves over a great sweep of history. On one level it is a fascinating mystery surrounding the fate of one of Charcot's early hypnotised patients. The drive of the action makes it hard to put down but it is also working on many levels that touch on profound questions of religion, psychotherapy, sexuality and possession. An exciting and satisfying read told with great sensitivity and emotional understanding.

Rosalind Bieber on 06/02/2019

It is amazing how William Rose has been able to conjure up a real world in an extraordinary time. He uses the language and colloquialisms with astonishing fluency so that the characters live in our minds in a compelling way. A story beautifully told.

Michael Yates on 06/02/2019

Science, Art and Love in 19th Century Paris.
In this novel set in late 19th century Paris, William Rose cleverly brings together his fictional characters with well known personalities from the world of science and the arts. We get to meet Professor Charcot and his young pupil Freud together with many from the art world of Symbolism. Madeleine has been diagnosed as an hysteric, and as the story unfolds we are led through a bizarre mixture of Roman Catholicism, Satanism, hypnotism and many other unusual practises. A love story unfolds with an ethereal Madeleine at it's centre. The author writes in
the style of a Victorian novelist and this enables him to create a wonderful, authentic atmosphere. I loved this book and was entranced by Madeleine. William Rose is a real find. More please.

Lynda Harris on 06/02/2019

This well-researched novel brings out the darker side of an extremely interesting period. The story, which unfolds mainly in late nineteenth century Paris, concentrates on the French Symbolist attraction to decadence, perversity and occultism. These themes, along with the period’s early development of psychiatry, are fleshed out through believable characters, and woven into a compelling plot.

I was only sorry that the book was not longer, and hope that William Rose will write others with Symbolist themes, set in Paris or elsewhere!