The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery

The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery During The Victorian Age A Time When Even Respectable Newspapers Had A Tabloid Edge Some Of The World S Most Renowned And Controversial Celebrities Were Women Who Could Allegedly Abstain From Eating For Months Or Even Years At A Time In The Fasting Girl, Acclaimed Journalist Michelle Stacey Tells The Story Of Mollie Fancher, A Young Brooklyn Woman Who Became The Most Famous Sick Person In The World Because Of Her Claim To Have Lived For Than A Decade Without Food Lauded By Entertainment Weekly As One Of The Top Ten Books Of And Compared By The Chicago Tribune To Simon Winchester S The Professor And The Madman, This Elegantly Written, Compulsively Readable Cultural History Intertwines Topics As Diverse As Eating Disorders, Charles Darwin, And The Nature Of Entertainment And Celebrity Mystic, Hysteric, Anorexic, Or Freak, Mollie Fancher Was Only One Thing For Sure A Hunger Artist Who Played Her Audience For Decades, Wrote The Village Voice It Took A Probing Writer Like Stacey To Give Her A Riveting Second Run

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  • Paperback
  • 352 pages
  • The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery
  • Michelle Stacey
  • English
  • 19 February 2018
  • 9781585422487

10 thoughts on “The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery

  1. says:

    The end of the 19th century was a time of great inventions, medical discoveries, religious movements in the form of spiritualism, and large frauds scams During this exciting period, Molly Fancher, a young woman in Brooklyn, NY was severely injured and then took to her bed for over a decade Fancher and her advocates claimed that she subsisted on no food, lived in and out of trances, and developed clairvoyant abilities Rocking the media, Fancher s case sprouted a medical and spiritual debate Michelle Stacey covers Fancher s story in, The Fasting Girl A True Victorian Medical Mystery Even readers unfamiliar with Molly Fancher can t deny being aroused by the book s topic Sadly though, Stacey doesn t satisfy this curiosity The Fasting Girl is poorly executed with a mish mash of jumbled tangents Stacey is a seasoned journalist which means The Fasting Girl reads like a journalistic report or article instead of having a smooth narrative The authors feels inclined to venture down every road for example mentioning a doctor results in pages of his career bio or a tidbit on Fancher s childhood home is followed by half a chapter on Brooklyn history which therefore causes the book to lose its main focus of the text The Fasting Girl would be remarkably shorter were these tangents eliminated.Throughout the book, these various strands even out slightly I emphasize slightly , as information became available to Stacey allowing her to spotlight Fancher s case Again, this is a coverage view so Fancher doesn t truly come alive or breathe and there are no primary sources such as Fancher s diary entries or personal letters The Fasting Girl is based wholly on summarizing existing newspapers and journal articles.It should also be noted that the chapters are long, not allowing for the space that some readers desire and thus, giving The Fasting Girl a run on feel.A positive trait of Stacey s writing is her ability to remain neutral without including any biases or personal thoughts involving the case This encourages the reader to formulate his or her own thoughts and opinions without the author nudging The Fasting Girl takes another HUGE detour and essentially becomes a book on the history of anorexia and the biological effects of starvation on the human body Although some readers may find these chapters to be interesting Molly Fancher is barely even mentioned on these pages with Stacey going as far as describing starvation in concentration camps during World War II Stacey is simply all over the place with The Fasting Girl The text does eventually revert back to the Fancher case but with less enthrallment and once again strikes off on tangents The final chapters of The Fasting Girl are interesting in that they explore Fancher s psychosis in modern terms and also describe her death which results in a strong conclusion although it would have made better sense to reverse the order of these two chapters.Stacey includes a very brief notes section which won t satisfy staunch fact seekers , a bibliography, and also some black and white images throughout the text color plates would have been pleasing It is also worth revealing that the editor was lax in terms of execution and by also allowing a few spelling and grammar errors The Fasting Girl is attractive in its topic but is sadly disjointed, repetitive, flimsy in research, and somewhat dry Although it is an introduction to Molly Fancher The Fasting Girl is not wholeheartedly recommended.

  2. says:

    This book was equal parts incredibly interesting and incredibly boring The good stuff an interesting real life story and detailed histories of Victorian era life, medicine, pathology, spiritualism, and pre psychology studies of hysteria neuroses The bad stuff those detailed histories sometimes become a bit too detailed re sleep inducing A good and quick read, nonetheless.

  3. says:

    Lots of history, with quite a fragmented narrative and lots of jumping back and forth in time The history of Brooklyn not exciting , medicine versus science covered and recovered, then revisited , history of anorexia nervosa as a diagnosis interesting and very little about Mollie Fancher herself sadly.This book was researched by a historian and this really shows in the understanding of modern science and psychology presented at the end The author attempts to press the opinion that DID multiple personality disorder is somehow caused by others influence, which is bizarre in a book based on a clear case from the 1800s when the condition was not in the news, in self help books etc To support this blinkered view she quotes a previous case which was reported in a newspaper report in a different state at a time before fast news transmission and electric light existed She offers no explanation for Mollie s frequently witnesses spasms and trances, including a 9 year trance after which she did not recognise her brother.Author Stacey makes a number of very disparaging and rather cruel statements about mental health and it s clear she is not objective here to be anorexic is to be manipulative , to have multiple personality disorder is for secondary gain , chronic fatigue syndrome may not exist at all, etc, etc Oddly argues against secondary gain in Mollie s case A better book could have been written which was half the size and referred to experts in anorexia nervosa and MPD instead it feels like this has been rushed and inaccurate medical historians used to represent current understanding She does however briefly mention Charcot and Pierre Janet who were leaders in this field in Victorian times.

  4. says:

    Great writing but poor structure this bounds around time and goes off on wild tangent But it s fun you can really imagine yourself in the Victorian era More interesting, though, is how similar that time feels to now all these pop diseases attributed to the stresses of modern times.

  5. says:

    There were some very fascinating parts to this book what entailed hysteria in the Victorian Ages, anorexia mirabilis, etc There were also some extremely dull parts and ultimately no real resolution to whether she truly lived 12 years or any period of time fasting.

  6. says:

    There was a lot that was interesting about this book specifically the parallels between Victorian hysteria or neurasthenia cases and our current understanding of disorders such as anorexia nervosa and conversion disorder, but the description of the central case of the book felt somewhat superficial This may be the necessary result of a scarce historical record, but still left me feeling unsatisfied I was also somewhat put off by the author s discussion of the current use of psychotropic medications such as prozac, suggesting that they are used as a substitute for simply building stronger character This minimizes the reality of living with severe depression, anxiety or OCD, and serves to perpetuate the stigma of mental illness and its treatment.

  7. says:

    The subject of this non fiction book is fascinating It deals with a young woman,Mollie Fancher, who lived in Brooklyn in Victorian times She had a form of hysteria rather commn at the time where she stayed in her room for, like, 40 years, and claimed to never eat, and to be clairvoyant to boot What makes this so interesting is that society was split in its opinion of the matter, with many believing the claims were true and represented a case of a purely spiritual person who had broken the shackles of material needs Even some doctors and intellectuals bought into this Of course, over 70% of Americans today believe in angels and intelligent design so I guess the Victorians were no worse than we Despite this inherently interesting subject, the book is hard to read because the author makes many, many, long, long discursions into tangentially related events It was a real slog to find the good stuff.

  8. says:

    An interesting slice of a victorian world on the verge of transition between mysticism and science, this book attempts to understand the underlying social causes that helped to create the fad of fasting by women Societal opression, limited choices women had in terms of a career in those relatively recent times, and the ladylike attributes associated with fasting are explored in this book Mollie is an example of what some women allegedly did in response to overwhelming pressure a clever way of sticking it to the man by necessitating her constant care and gaining fame in the process Of course, whether or not the prolonged fasting of women such as Mollie was genuine or an elaborate hoax is the main focus in this fascinating window into a late 19th century phenomenon.

  9. says:

    This book s title isn t precisely misleading, but easily misinterpreted, as the Fasting Girl is not so much Mollie Fancher as the phenomenon of which her case is the book s central example Stacey places an individual anomalous life at the fulcrum point of societal, scientific and religious shifts in thought in the mid 19th century, reaching some fascinating conclusions about where we ve been, where we are, and how they re connected A wide array of ideas are dealt with in necessarily cursory depth other reviewers have pegged this as a weakness, but I like the overview approach and was certainly never bored.

  10. says:

    I found the story of Mollie Fancher interesting, though frustrating I wish we could have gotten some real answers as to how she was doing the things she claimed to do The book was also interesting from a historical standpoint, especially for someone who lives in Brooklyn Mollie is buried in the cemetery a few blocks from my apartment, I will definitely have to seek out her grave on my next visit.

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