Selected by our Editorial Experts
Inspired by a true story from the nineteenth century, My Notorious Life by Madame X is a stunning tale of freedom, family and the many faces of love. Above all, it is the story of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world.
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My Notorious Life by Madame X by Kate Manning
'In the end, they celebrated. They bragged. They got me finally, was their feeling. They said I would take my secrets to the grave. They should be so lucky.' Axie Muldoon, the headstrong daughter of Irish immigrants, forced to beg for pennies as a child on the brutal streets of New York City, grows up to become the most successful - and controversial - midwife of her time. 'Saved' from poverty by a well-meaning philanthropist, Axie is sent West with her brother Joe and her sister Dutch. But the kindness of strangers is short-lived and soon Axie returns to the city of her birth, separated from those she loves but determined to one day reunite her family. When she is taken in by a Manhattan doctor Axie learns the craft that she will live by - and later fight for. As a purveyor of 'lunar tonic for the relief of female complaints' she rises from the gutter to the glitter of 5th Avenue high society, and discovers that the right way is not always the way of the church or 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 Irish soul? As Axie's reputation grows she finds herself on a collision course with the crusading official who would be the righteous instrument of her downfall. It will take all of her power to outwit him and save both herself and those she loves from ruin.
'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
'Both riveting and morally intriguing' Stylist
'My Notorious Life is wonderful fun. The wit and verve of its unsinkable heroine make this novel a delight to read, even in its most harrowing passages. Beyond that, it's a book that matters-now more than ever. Faithfully true to the time of its setting, it is also extremely relevant to ours' Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls Rising
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.
Author photo © Anne Day
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