My Notorious Life: Book summary and reviews of My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

My Notorious Life

by Kate Manning

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning X
My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013
    448 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

This sweeping, evocative, and absolutely unforgettable novel about the charismatic and passionate Axie Muldoon who changed the lives of countless women was inspired by a real midwife who became one of the most controversial figures in Victorian New York City.

Set in gritty New York City in the last half of the nineteenth century, My Notorious Life is a vibrant portrait of Axie Muldoon, a plucky orphan who becomes one of the most successful - and controversial - midwives of her time. Told in a magnetic voice, pulsing and vivid, Axie recounts how she is separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor and midwife, and how she later parlays the sale of a few bottles of "lunar tonic for female complaints" into a thriving midwifery practice with her husband and fellow orphan friend, Charles G. Jones. But Axie is on a collision course with one of the most zealous, censorious characters of her era: Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and it will take all of Axie's power to outwit him and save both herself and her family from ruin.

A love story, a family saga, and a brilliant rendering of a historical time, this is also a moving and nuanced commentary on an important topic: women's control of their bodies. But ultimately, it is the story of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world; with her fierce and vibrant spirit, Axie Muldoon is an indelible heroine for the ages.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Manning paints a vivid portrait of this daring yet deeply compassionate woman who is willing to flout convention and defy the law in the name of women's reproductive rights." - Publishers Weekly

"Manning's fascinating dramatization of the hazards of her protagonist's pillar-to-post childhood and slave-labor apprenticeship, followed by her creation of Madame X's above-and-around-the-law career vividly and movingly portray an unsympathetic world for women." - Booklist

"Axie's profane Irish brogue is vividly recreated with virtually no anachronistic slips, and though a certain degree of polemical crusading is unavoidable given Axie's proclivities, her voice never fails to entertain." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Diane S.

My Notorious Life
Written in somewhat of a melodramatic fashion and yes sometimes I felt a little too dramatic yet it was impossible for me to not get caught up in Axie's story. For one thing I just love this character's name, Axie Muldoon, just resonated for me for some reason.

That this book is loosely built on the real life person of a female medical doctor once considered the Wickedest Women in New York, is a plus because it makes the story so much more genuine. This book contains so much history, and I feel that the author's writing was the strongest in her descriptions of the streets of New York, with so many immigrants and orphans, a street that was filthy and not very friendly too many. The orphan trains and the splitting up of families. A journey through women's contraceptive practices of the day, the beginning trade in medicines, where people were willing to part with their few dollars just on the hope that something would work. The trade of midwife and all it entailed and of course Comstock and his moral crusade to clear out profanity of any kind.

Axie is a character that is larger than life at a time when choices for woman were at their lowest. The ending is a little too pat, but I can live with it. I kept thinking what a wonderful mini-series this book would be. Maybe gain a wonderful following like The Midwives and Downton Abbey. Think it would work wonderfully well.

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More Information

A former documentary television producer (for WNET-13, where she won two Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Brotherhood Award), Kate Manning has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Glamour, and More. She is the author of the novel, Whitegirl, 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.

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