A fantastic read!
My Notorious Life by Madame X
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Description (provided by Goodreads):
Based on a true story from the scandalized headlines of Victorian New York City, My Notorious Life is a portrait of Axie Muldoon, the impoverished daughter of Irish Immigrants who becomes an enormously successful—and controversial—midwife. Separated from her siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, Axie parlays the sale of a few bottles of “lunar tonic for relief of female complaint” into a thriving practice as a female physician known as “Madame X.” But as she rises from the gutter to the glitter of Fifth Avenue, Axie discovers that the right way is not always the way of the law, and that you should never trust a man who says, “trust me.” But what if that man is an irresistible risk-taker with a poetical soul? Soon, Axie’s choices put her on a collision course with one of the most zealous characters of her era: Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and it will take all of her power and wealth to outwit him and save herself and her family from ruin.
A love story, a family saga, and a vivid rendering of a historical time and heated political climate, My Notorious Life is the tale of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world. Axie Muldoon is a heroine for the ages
How to begin – this book is extraordinary and exquisite and I loved every word on every page! This book has much to offer- it is a historical feminist work of fiction “based partly on the life and death of Ann Trow Lohman (1811-79) also known as Madame Restell who practiced midwifery in New York for almost forty year” (Author’s note). It is a love story, it is a story of overcoming adversity where the heroine actually wins, and it is a story of courage, devotion, family and humanity at work. The early years of Madame X’s life echo of life of so many women at the time; fighting to survive, fighting to feed their families, each day a hardship, each day a battle against poverty, hunger, disease and child birth death. For many women pregnancy was a real health threat, so many died in childbirth or shortly after.
But enough of the feminist ideology and analysis – that could go on and on and this is a book review not an essay on feminism but I do hope this book becomes part of high school and university curriculum – and has so much to offer to men and women.
I loved the well developed characters in this book- Madame X/Axie/Ann is a powerful and heroic young woman. She is feisty, says her mind, she is intelligent, she is a mother, a daughter, a wife and she is a business woman, she is a health worker. She speaks with attitude, honesty and she has an authentic voice. I love her frailties, they make her credible – she is plagued by jealously, she has a quick temper, she speaks her mind. She has self doubts, she rises to her husband’s baits and taunts – she is manipulated by his words and takes risks she might not have taken by herself. She grows.
The minor characters are also quite likeable and fallible – all seeking to be loved and cherished and seeking the right to determine their own future, to rise above poverty. Charlie is a likeable rogue and is quite enlightened for the times. Greta is vulnerable, loyal and demonstrates we are all just one mistake or bad judgement away from despair.
Manning paints from an incredibly rich palette of colours – her settings, the clothes, the buildings, the language of the time, her characters, all come alive on the page. When you read this novel you do not merely observe; you walk this life side by side with Madame X.
The plot is fast paced and exciting. This historical work of fiction also provides intrigue, romance and mystery. This book has something for everyone. I cannot recommend this book more highly. This is one of the best reads of 2013.