The Girl Puzzle: A Story of Nellie Bly by Kate Braithwaite

English | ePUB | Pages: 263 | 419.11 kB

Her published story is well known. But did she tell the whole truth about her 10 days in the madhouse?

Down to her last dime and offered the chance of a job of a lifetime at the New York World, 23-year-old Elizabeth Cochrane agrees to get herself admitted to Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum and report on conditions from the inside. But what happened to her poor friend, Tilly Mayard? Was there more to her high praise of Dr. Frank Ingram than everyone knew?

Thirty years later, Elizabeth, known as Nellie Bly, is no longer a celebrated trailblazer and the toast of Newspaper Row. Instead, she lives in a suite in the Hotel McAlpin, writes a column for the New York Journal and runs an informal adoption agency for the city’s orphans.

Beatrice Alexander is her secretary, fascinated by Miss Bly and her causes and crusades. Asked to type up a manuscript revisiting her employer’s experiences in the asylum in 1887, Beatrice believes she’s been given the key to understanding one of the most innovative and daring figures of the age.


Novelist Braithwaite (The Road to Newgate, 2018, etc.) delivers a well-researched and engrossing tale that focuses on female empowerment. It’s full of intriguing historical details about past medical practices and the abuses that wards of the state endured; it also features many real-life characters, including patients and doctors that Bly met in the asylum. Although readers know from the start that Bly escaped Blackwell’s Island, the descriptions of her harrowing experiences remain captivating.A story of grit and perseverance that will appeal to readers interested in the history of women in journalism.

Kirkus Reviews

Everything a historical novel should be – illuminating, intriguing and intelligent. Kate Braithwaite has woven a fascinating and atmospheric story from what is known about the pioneering feminist journalist Nellie Bly (née Elizabeth Cochrane).  Braithwaite skillfully blends Bly’s early and later career to give a new insight into a remarkable and complex woman.

Olga Wojtas, author of Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar

I thought I knew a lot about Nellie Bly. I think that at one time I read a different book based on her life. So I was hesitant at first to read another one, but I’m so glad I took the leap. This account is so fully realized and fascinating that I came away understanding so much more about Elizabeth (her real name) than I’d ever expected. In addition to that, it’s simply a great read.

The author tells the story from the point of view of one of Nellie’s assistants later in her life. During that time, Nellie is writing her life story, so we get to relive her time in the asylum in great detail, as this was the seminal moment in terms of changing her public life. It made her famous, but the author manages to show us the personal side of Nellie in a way that revealed so much more. Like so many of us, Nellie was flawed, haunted by the past, and still searching for answers and purpose up until the very end.

Beatrice, the narrator, also comes alive in this book as another fully realized character, and with her, the reader also gets to experience a sweet love story. But nothing about this novel is simple. It’s fast-paced and reads almost like a thriller, yet will leave you thinking about it for a long time. Very highly recommended.