Monday, November 4, 2013

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

Book Synopsis

A brilliant rendering of a scandalous historical figure, Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life is an ambitious, thrilling novel introducing Axie Muldoon, a fiery heroine for the ages. 

Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day. 

In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.” 

When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear. 

Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mys­tery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present.

My Review

This book is a must read for every woman. It is a story that takes us into our past; a tale loosely based on the life of a woman who dedicated her life to address the adversities arising from childbirth issues. This rag to riches, fictionalized accounting based on the story of Madame Restell, a notorious abortionist in New York City gives readers a peak at what it means to be a woman during the late 1800’s.

The story begins with Axie Muldoon who is an extremely poor child struggling to survive on the streets of New York. She is rescued by a reverend of the Children’s Aid Society and soon finds herself taken in by a local doctor and his wife. It is here that Axie learns about female remedies and midwifery skills.The story unfolds vividly, realistically, and takes us into the seedier side of New York and the options women had available to them regarding pregnancies, wanted or unwanted and its prevention.

I highly recommend My Notorious Life as a wonderfully poignant novel about a woman who chose a controversial path in life to come to the aid of needful women. It is a shocking portrayal of the hardships women once faced regading their bodies, their sex lives, and the impact of child-bearing. Excellent biographical historical fiction! 

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