Thursday, July 23, 2009

Review: The Wet Nurse's Tale

A couple months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Eisdorfer, author of the new novel The Wet Nurse's Tale. Erica's novel made it to the top 10 of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Although she didn't win the Amazon contest, her novel was published by Putnam and will be released August 6th. It's currently available for pre-sale at Amazon. Erica and Putnam were generous enough to send me an advance reader copy of the novel to review and although I am not typically an historical fiction reader, I really loved the book.

The book is set in Victorian England and follows the story of plucky Susan Rose, a chamber maid in the "Great House" of her town. Susan Rose is zaftig, clever, and a bit of a skank. Her mother kept the family in bread and ale by wet nursing, so when a dalliance with the Mistress' son leaves her in the family way, she decides to take up wet nursing herself.

Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse (and don't they always?) when Susan's abusive and alcoholic father sells her baby, who is worth more money to him gone than the shillings Susan brings in wet nursing. Despite threats from her father and the Mistress, Susan travels across the country using her wiles to track down her baby and scheme her way into the home of the woman whose adopted him in order to get him back.

In between each chapter, the author gives us a view into the lives of the various women and men who sent their children out to be nursed by Susan and her mother and their reasons for doing so. Although these chapters don't move the narrative along, they were an interesting diversion and a glimpse into what life was like for these babies who were often sent to live with another woman for years in order to be breastfed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and its plucky heroine, Susan Rose. This novel would appeal to fans of historical fiction, particularly of the Victorian age, and anyone who has ever nursed a baby. There were so many moments while reading the novel that I found myself nodding and smiling, like when Susan guzzles a pint of ale because "nursing's a thirsty business!" or when her breasts are full and aching with milk and she has to express them until her hands are sore in order to wring out the milk and keep up her supply until she can be reunited with her baby. I would highly recommend this book and encourage all to pick up your copy August 6th!

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