My Notorious Life by Madame X
'Not just a splendidly page-turning story of an angry orphan clawing her way up in the world, but a gripping docu-drama about women’s business (in several senses) in nineteenth-century America. My Notorious Life gives midwifery its full dues: the glories and the miseries, the feminism and the money, the literally bloody ethical dilemmas. Unflinchingly memorable' - Emma Donoghue, author of ROOM.
In the end, they celebrated. They bragged. They got me finally, was their feeling. They got me. They said I would take my secrets to the grave.
They should be so lucky.
This is the testament of Axie Muldoon: midwife, female physician, distributor of ‘obscene’ materials, and the most scandalous woman in New York. Her story begins in 1860, when she is thirteen years old, the child of Irish emigrants, forced to beg on the streets for pennies with her little sister Dutch and baby brother Joe. When a Christian philanthropist sends the children West to ‘save’ them, Axie is separated from her mother and siblings, and embarks on a quest to reunite her family.
Back in New York, Axie is taken in by a local midwife who teaches her the craft she will live by – and later fight for. She makes her fortune, and discovers that the right way is not always the way of God or the law, and that you should never trust a man who says ‘trust me.’ But what if that man is the irresistible Charlie G. Jones (the ‘G’ is for Great), fellow orphan and poetical Irish soul?
As she tends to her family and her desperate patients, the man who would be the righteous instrument of her downfall circles ever closer…
In electrifying prose and based on a true story, Kate Manning depicts nineteenth-century New York in all its contradictions – a morass of deprivation, moral hysteria, back alleys and blind eyes – in this stunning tale of sex, freedom, family and the many faces of love.
For fans of The Crimson Petal and the White and The Gods of Gotham. A potential prize-winner, this novel is also perfect for book groups with its themes of sex, freedom and the rights of women, and a gripping historical plot.
Read Caroline Baum's Review:
I like Axie Muldoon, the spirited Irish street kid who goes from gutter to glitter and becomes the most controversial midwife of her time (the 1880s) in Manhattan. She never forgets where she came from, her motives are sound and she’s refreshingly pragmatic. It’s easy to invest this kind of historical drama (based on a true story) with a bit of Dickensian caricature and theatrical faux urban grime but Manning avoids those clichés and creates characters and atmosphere full of appealing vitality.
About the Author
A former documentary television producer (and winner of two Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award), Kate Manning has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Glamour and More, among other publications. She is the author of Whitegirl, a novel, and is an adjunct faculty member of the English Department at Bard High School Early College. She lives with her family in New York City.