Woman 99

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

When Charlotte Smith's parents have her sister, Phoebe, committed to Goldengrove Asylum in the dead of night, Charlotte suspects there's something she's not being told. Determined to find--and rescue--her sister from whatever horrors await her there, Charlotte feigns a suicide attempt and gets herself committed. Inside the institution's walls, she discovers firsthand the atrocities of late 19th-century mental health "treatments" for female patients. "I wanted to say that this place made no sense," Charlotte considers not long after her arrival, "but unfortunately, it did. It made a terrible kind of sense... as long as you assumed every woman in the place was mad and that her only worth came from labor or silence, preferably both."

Greer Macallister (The Magician's Lie) notes at the end of Woman 99 that Goldengrove itself is an imaginary place, but the patient treatments she describes were derived from contemporaneous records. This sense of rich historical detail infuses every part of the novel, from Charlotte's dresses to descriptions of San Francisco. Against this backdrop, Charlotte struggles at Goldengrove to shed light on the mistreatment of women at the hands of profit-hungry men; it's impossible not to root for the sisters as they work to combat that mistreatment on behalf of themselves and others. Woman 99 is a fast-paced historical thriller perfect for book club discussions.
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I did not finish Woman 99 by Greer Macallister. I just couldn't get into the story although I know others loved it!
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While this book was very different from the authors previous novel The Magicians Lie, it was still very enjoyable. I loved the slow burn of the story and the in depth descriptions of what Charlotte went through to get to her sister. The ending was so very sweet. Loved 5is one and highly recommend!
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Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

Takes places in the 1800s, between two sisters.  One sister is committed to an aslyum by their parents and the other sister follows her, in an attempt to get her out.

1. Very Nellie Bly in that it is so eye opening in, not only the conditions of asylums, but just how easily people (especially women) could be committed against their will.
2. The writing was beautiful, the story eye opening and scary and loving.  A page turner and I wanted to know everything!
3.  This book has made me want to read all I can about mental asylums back in the day.

I highly recommend this book.

The Book of Essie
Dead Girls Club
Brain on Fire
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The story was set in the late 1800’s in San Francisco. A woman named Phoebe from a wealthy family is sent to a mental asylum for women who were ‘mad’ (as they described them), were nuisances to their husbands and families or just didn’t conform to the standards of what a woman should be. Her 20 year old sister Charlotte, betrothed to a wealthy man she didn’t love, creates a plan so that she could also be admitted to the women’s asylum – her aim, to get her sister out. She became labeled woman 99.

The operation of the mental asylum were well researched and while the story was fictional, the ‘treatments’ were actually used in female asylums in that period. The characters drove this story and I really enjoyed it!
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Greer is a local author to me.  I loved all of her books prior to this.  I didn't know much about the era and women she was writing about and I love historical fiction that teaches me things!
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Having read Greer Macallister’s Girl in Disguise and having enjoyed the story, I looked forward to reading Woman 99. Like many young women, especially those from wealthy families in the 1880s, Charlotte discovers she must marry a man she does not love. Her parents wish the marriage to take place. Macallister gives readers glimpses into the full story through flashbacks in order to keep suspense high. To add to Charlotte’s trouble, Phoebe, her sister, is in a mental institution for the “curably insane.”
Readers soon learn Charlotte has a crush on Henry Sidwell who works for her father. Naturally, that relationship would be unacceptable to her parents.
Woman 99 does exhibit inconsistencies. While Charlotte’s parents hover over her life in many aspects, they allow her to take a trip unchaperoned. Woman 99 does not deliver on its promise as I had hoped. Still, I am glad I read the whole story.
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*2.5 stars

I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. It started off well. Late 1800's, where woman can be sent to an asylum simply for not complying with 'normal' conventions. You blink wrong and you can be sent away! Well, Phoebe has sad days and days where she's flying high, so her wealthy parents send her away. That leaves us with her sister Charlotte, who is engaged to be married to man she doesn't love & missing a sister she believes doesn't belong in an asylum. So she concocts a plan to get herself admitted so she can break Phoebe out. Once she's in the asylum she gets to experience some horrific experiments that they did back then. I thought there would be more trouble than what Charlotte actually experiments though. I know some of the things were really horrible but I also felt they weren't really explored. To be honest, I felt that Charlotte had it easy. I expected this horrible, painful, awful asylum, but it just didn't feel that way. They talked about the bad food, the cold scrubbing showers, and the hours of either sitting quietly or working themselves to the bone but I didn't feeeeeel it. Does that make sense? Things just came too easily for Charlotte in this book. We also got flashbacks to Charlotte's life before she came to the asylum, which I don't think added anything to the story. Towards the end I thought things would get harder but, once again, everything was just too easy. I suppose I expected more hardship and that's not what I read. At times I was bored, sometimes interested, and other times I just wanted the book to be over. 

**Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 stars.   A unique storyline of family, sisterhood and sacrifice.

Charlotte and Phoebe Smith are sisters and best friends.   Growing up on their wealthy family estate, they share many childhood secrets and memories.  After one too many socially unacceptable incidents, their parents send Phoebe to the local woman’s asylum, where they can ‘cure’ her unpredictable and unmanageable moods.   Shocked and furious about the separation, Charlotte leaves her family to secretly register herself as an inmate at the asylum to find and rescue her sister.  

I love the premise of this novel as I am fascinated and intrigued by stories about asylums.   This novel was well written and highly atmospheric.  The rich and shocking detail surrounding the happenings within the asylum was unnerving and eerie.   I felt for the inmates and was rooting for a positive outcome for all.

I was enthralled for the first ¾ of the book, engrossed within the details and trying to figure out what would happen to Charlotte and Phoebe.   I’m not sure if I built up my expectations too high or just expected something completely different, but the ending didn’t work for me.  I was waiting for ‘something’ to happen that never quite did.   The story concluded neatly and tied up all the loose ends, but it was lacking something.   I was hoping for a shock, twist or ‘a-ha’ moment that never did happen.  

While the ending fell short of what I had hoped for, the buildup and presentation of the storyline was excellent.  I was drawn into the characters’ lives – my curiosity piqued from the start.  There are several characters throughout this novel and they were all memorable and impactful. Overall, this was an enjoyable and unique novel.

This was a Traveling Friends read. 

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC to read and review!
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Woman 99 is a terrifying book even if you were already familiar with how women's health was treated back in that time. You can tell the author did an extensive amount of research, and it helped drive home how terrible and hopeless all those women must have felt being trapped in these institutions until someone deemed them "sane" enough to leave...if they ever left. The relationships between not only Charlotte and Phoebe, but all the women imprisoned there, is the heart of the book and made it worth reading. Definitely recommended.
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I have been looking for a great book that explores the mental institutions and the women that would be admitted there without having anything to say about it, and found it! Greer Macallister masters the feelings of the women in a fictional mental institution she named Goldengrove but was based on real mental institutions in the late 1800's. The author did an amazing research for a reader to feel exactly how the characters in the book are feeling. Charlotte admits herself to a mental asylum because her sister, Phoebe, was sent there by her parents. She goes there to rescue her sister as she believes Phoebe was sent to the institution because of her as she stood up for her sister when her parents wanted to marry her off to the man she did not want. The book takes readers on a journey of how strong female relationships can be, especially sister relationships. How women would stand up for each other and themselves back in the day but were still condemn to act without a voice. It also shows how a family in the late 1800's would react to mental illness and how protecting your name and estate was very important. I absolutely loved the writing style and this novel had me rooting for the characters and made me upset when things weren't going the right way. This novel would be fantastic for a book club read as it explores many interesting and important subjects. I can't wait for the author's next works and will be checking out her back-listed books.
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I thought I was really going to like this one, but it just wasn’t for me. 

Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced reader copy.
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This book kept me on the edge of my seat. At times, the mystery seemed slightly predictable but the creepy atmosphere and well developed characters kept me interested. MacAllister is an excellent author and I look forward to reading more of her other works. Thanks Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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This was a good premise, and I was interested in the story for about 60% of the book. But then the mystery became a bit dull, and I thought it took a bit longer to get to the sister than necessary.

The writing was strong and I love this author's work. I was just a little disappointed in the momentum.
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Charlotte Smith decides to do something drastic to rescue her sister Phoebe after she is admitted to a nearby mental institution that their neighbors own.  She gets admitted herself and tries to save her sister, the problem is finding her and figuring out how to get back out.  Turns out, it's not as easy as it is to get in.  

This is such an eloquently written novel that is impossible to put down.  The beginning takes a bit to get into but once the story gets rolling. you won't want to put down the book either.   One of the best parts of this novel was watching Charlotte gain her confidence in herself and learn how to stand up for herself. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the eARC copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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Greer Macallister did it again. With Woman 99, she wrote another book I couldn’t stop listening to and reading. Macallister has a way with her portrayals of strong, but flawed, women. In Woman 99, she gives us several who fit that mold.

Her chief protagonist is Charlotte Smith, whose family is up-and-coming in 1888 San Francisco’s tony Nob Hill. One of four siblings, Charlotte is admittedly pampered. She attended finishing school, and now her parents want her to marry the son of their much-wealthier neighbors.

But complications ensue, since Charlotte’s sister Phoebe has mental health issues. In keeping with the times, Macallister never names the diagnosis but the descriptions match bipolar disorder. The Smith parents decide that a high-end institution called Goldengrove, located in the Napa Valley, is the best place for Phoebe.

But Charlotte can’t just stand by and watch this happen. So she dives right in—literally jumping into San Francisco Bay—in order to get herself anonymously committed to the same institution. Pretty naïve choice, if you ask me. Charlotte has no particular plan. In fact, she thinks all she’ll have to do is tell the administrators that she’s not insane and Phoebe shouldn’t be there either. And voilà, home they go.

Of course, it’s infinitely more complex than that. And Charlotte must take a deep breath and really figure out her options and allies. Along the way, she meets some admirable women from many stations in life. Some have mental illness, but many are just deemed to be “problems.” She also finds out that the institution’s staff and treatments aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

My conclusions
I enjoyed this just as much as Macallister’s Girl in Disguise. Although the stories were entirely different, Charlotte is a woman who disguises herself as something she’s not. I did my share of eye rolls at her naïveté, but also appreciated her sisterly devotion. Her mother’s social climbing is cringe-worthy, considering she uses her daughters as pawns in the game. Phoebe is self-aware enough to continue her big sister role, but is much more a realist. That’s ironic considering she also has a serious disorder.

As you can see, Macallister balances complexity with the character types of the era. She also takes on the 19th-century practice of “erasing” difficult women by locking them away. Other history books cover the practice of diagnosing women with unfounded mental and physical illness. For example, Unmentionable, which I read earlier this year. But Macallister brings this horrible practice to life with her sympathetic characters and unique plot.

The other book I’m reading this week, called Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, even referenced this behavior. “The dismissal of the victims of misogynistic violence may take epistemic forms: where, typically, they are held to be lying—but alternatively, they may be dismissed as stupid, crazy, or hysterical.” (p. 217) In 1888, those women would end up in a place like Woman 99’s Goldengrove.

The way Macallister and Charlotte resolve the situation is unexpected and well done. The bulk of the book is in the asylum, but the ending has enough focus and neatly ties up the most significant story lines. Like I said, once I hit 50% I was positively itching to see what happened.

Charlotte, Phoebe, and the other women in their world are well worth meeting, if you like historical fiction with relevant feminist themes.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and the author for a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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This was an interesting historical thriller. It was fairly predictable, but the story line kept me turning the pages. The setting was dark and creepy, and the first person voice reminded me of Jane Eyre. I love the growth of the main character. She went from a sheltered rich girl to a strong capable heroine. Highly recommended. 

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley for the purpose of review.
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Great book.  I think I found a favorite new author.  I have already purchased Greer's other titles.  Love it!
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A vivid historical thriller about a woman locked up in an insane asylum in the late 1800s. This story had a vivid background and wonderful writing!
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“Woman 99” by Greer Macallister was a quality read for me. It firmly delivered on its premise and then some!

This was a really intriguing story. With many twists and turns, it gave a real insight into the days when lunatics and the mentally insane were institutionalised. Often they were simply left there for the rest of their lives, dumped by families who didn’t want the responsibility of having to deal with them. 

Dark and disturbing in parts, I really enjoyed this book and I would love to read more by this author. Rating: 5 Stars

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my own request from Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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