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A modern investigation of the case of a young Victorian woman who claimed to have survived for twelve years without food.
In 1865, eighteen-year-old Mollie Fancher began suffering a myriad of ailments that included paralysis, spasms, blindness, and trances. Treated with electric shocks, rolled in wet sheets, and fitted with an "ice jacket," Mollie took to her bed in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed there for the rest of her life.
Her story became an international sensation. Fought over by scientists and philosophers, called a "psychological marvel" and a fraud, Mollie was, for more than a decade, reportedly able to "live on air."
In one six-month period alone, she apparently ate nothing more than four teaspoons of milk punch, two teaspoons of wine, one small banana, and a cracker.
But what really happened in Mollie's home? How, and how much, did she eat? Was she willfully deceptive or simply hysterical, emotionally disturbed, delusional? In The Fasting Girl, Michelle Stacey searches for the true story of the Fancher case, delving into such fascinating phenomena as medieval anorexia mirabilis (fasting saints), the tragic wave of copycat Victorian fasting girls, and the dawn of the Age of Neurosis. This riveting literary history evokes such bestsellers as The Professor and the Madman and The Murder of Helen Jewett as it explores the social and technological upheaval of a post-Darwinian, doubting era that very much mirrors our own. [via]