City of Incurable Women

128 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.99
ISBN: 9781942658863


ISBN: 9781942658900

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City of Incurable Women is a brilliant exploration of the type of female bodily and psychic pain once commonly diagnosed as hysteria—and the curiously hysterical response to it commonly exhibited by medical men. It is a novel of powerful originality, riveting historical interest, and haunting lyrical beauty.”

Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and What Are You Going Through

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“I would follow Maud Casey anywhere. In City of Incurable Women, she has given us her best work yet. This is a song for the forgotten, full of voices that will stay with you and guide you—an astonishing portrayal of rage and hope. What a glorious work of art and what a true gift to us.”

Paul Yoon, author of Snow Hunters and Run Me to Earth

“In exquisite prose, Casey has built a city inside a book, a city that is a hospital, a museum, a dance, a body in ecstasy just outside the frame. On every page of this achingly beautiful book, Casey brings a wise and feral attention to the so-called incurables of the ‘era of soul science’—Augustine, Louise, Marie, Geneviève, and a chorus of nameless others singing their private beginnings and public ends.”

Danielle Dutton, author of SPRAWL and Margaret the First

“An amazing book.”

Héctor Tobar, Alta Journal

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“[City of Incurable Women] is poetic rather than polemic, elegantly written and filled with resonant imagery. . . . Affirmative and inspiring, a powerful demonstration of Maud Casey’s artistry.”

Boston Globe

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“Casey’s dedication reads ‘for my fellow incurables’ and this short, enchantingly strange book feels animated by compassion.”

Star Tribune

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“Sensual, terrifying, humorous, and absurd, [City of Incurable Women] portrays many incurable things—namely, the human spirit.”

BOMB Magazine

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“Investigational and piercing. . . . [Casey] dismantles the facade of cold, medical logic and its dehumanization of women while also creating beautiful poetry.”

San Francisco Book Review

“Casey’s subtle braiding of suffering and strength is the beating heart of this extraordinary work of imagination. . . . These ‘incurable women’ create complex selves always in motion—full of pain but also power, pleasure, and above all mystery.”

On the Seawall

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“An evocative blend of fiction and nonfiction spirited with emotional power and historic significance. . . . Casey has written a triumphant homage to the women of Paris’s Salpêtrière asylum, and her fellow incurables everywhere.”

Longest Chapter

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“Enlightening. . . . Casey’s rich imaginative leaps make for tantalizing and affecting portraits. [City of Incurable Women] defies convention and revels in searing, gorgeous language.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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“With acute empathy . . . Casey masterfully magnifies the stories of ‘incurable’ women in Paris’s 19th-century Salpêtrière hospital.”

Shelf Awareness

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“Lyrical. . . . Through thorough research and a cutting pen, Casey elevates these women back to their deserved place in history, bringing to life those who were reduced to mere photographs.”


“An innovative novel. . . . Soaringly lyrical.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A stinging yet lyrically sensual feminist exploration. . . . Casey delivers a fascinating historical look at female mental health treatment of long ago—complete with medical documents and illustrations.”

Melanie Fleishman, Center for Fiction Bookstore (Brooklyn, NY)

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“Casey who, in giving [women diagnosed with hysteria] voices and endowing them with a skilled novelist’s lyrical, rhythmic language . . . shows that this 19th-century malady exists on a continuum with martyred saints, burned witches, and today’s chronic fatigue patients.”

Laurie Greer, Politics and Prose Bookstore (Washington, DC)

“My words cannot do this novel justice. What Casey has written is lyrical beauty. . . . Each page teems with the emotional release these women were denied; each page is brilliant ecstasy.”

Nikole Lotton, Bookshop Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)

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“Reduced to stereotypes of the fragile female mind by narcissistic psychiatrists, [the women’s] inner lives reclaim a new, fuller form in this remarkable book.”

Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)

“Where are the hysterics, those magnificent women of former times?” wrote Jacques Lacan. Long history’s ghosts, marginalized and dispossessed due to their gender and class, they are reimagined by Maud Casey as complex, flesh-and-blood people with stories to tell. These linked, evocative prose portraits, accompanied by period photographs and medical documents both authentic and invented, poignantly restore the humanity to the nineteenth-century female psychiatric patients confined in Paris’s Salpêtrière hospital and reduced to specimens for study by the celebrated neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot and his male colleagues.

American Library in Paris Book Award Shortlist

Joyce Carol Oates Prize Longlist

Balcones Prize for Fiction Finalist

Literary Hub “New Books to Dive Into” selection

Alta Journal “Reading Recommendations” selection

Publishers Weekly “Books of the Week” selection

Books & Books “Selects” Staff Pick

Bookshop Santa Cruz “Summer Reading Guide” selection

Center for Fiction “Bookstore Picks” selection

Politics and Prose Bookstore Staff Pick

WRAL “Bookin’ by Quail Ridge Books” selection

Excerpt from City of Incurable Women

Publishers Weekly shares the story behind City of Incurable Women and discusses the novel with author Maud Casey.

Watch Maud Casey in conversation about City of Incurable Women with American Library in Paris Book Award Administrator Rachel Donadio; with Anne Hoffman in the Psychiatry and the Arts seminar series of the DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, and with Emily Mitchell at Lost City Books.

Maud Casey talks about City of Incurable Women at Book Q&As and with the Georgia Review, Five Points: A Journal of Literature & Art, Maryland Today, and BOMB Magazine.