The Salpetriere asylum, Paris, 1885. Dr Charcot holds all of Paris in thrall with his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad, hysterics, and been cast out from society. But the truth is much more complicated - these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives, those who have lost something precious, or wayward daughters. For Parisian society, the highlight of the year is The Mad Women's Ball, when the great and good come to gawk at the patients of the Salpetriere dressed up in their finery for one night only. For the women themselves it is a rare moment of hope. Genevieve is a senior nurse - after the childhood death of her sister Blandine, she shunned religion and has placed her faith in Dr Charcot and science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugenie, the 19 year old daughter of a bourgeois family who have locked her away in the asylum.