Excerpt from The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Nightingales of Troy

by Alice Fulton

The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2008, 256 pages
    Jul 2009, 256 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

“I was torn by a confliction of duty—” and she would have gone on but we heard footsteps. There came a light scratching of fingernails on the curtains, and Doc Muswell entered, along with the Mother Superior or some other bigwig, by the look of her.

In his single-breasted Prince Albert suit, I’d call Doc Muswell pretty nobby-looking for a country sawbones. Before I married, I’d worked as his housekeeper and assistant, so we were old pals. I knew his wife to be a malingerer, and he knew I had a wasting disease. He had trained me as his nurse, and many’s the time I’d saved him the weary night work of delivering infants. As he saw it, childbirth was long hours for short wages.

“Does Sister suffer from any known disease?” he asked the Superior nun.

“Only the disease of scrupulosity,” she answered back. She told him to report to her before he left and excused herself.

Once he’d overlooked the situation carefully, Doc asked Sister if she knew the day and place she was. She said, “I thought I was on the Ganges plain between Patna and Benares, but now I see I’m in Watervliet.”

“That’s right, Sister,” I said, to encourage her. I didn’t know where the Ganges plain was located. Somewhere near the road to Damascus most likely.

Doc Muswell took out his stethoscope, and I thought he’d see her scar, but he turned his head to one side and listened without looking, as doctors did in the presence of modesty back then.

“You have heatstroke, Sister,” he told her. “Forgive me for saying so, but you are chronically overdressed for garden work.”

“Your rebuke is well-taken, Doctor. The great discovery is in the heavens above us, not the garden below.” She liked to browbeat herself. I’d seen that instantly.

“Well, Doc,” I said in her defense, “Sister’s skirt, sleeves, and veil were pinned up, under, and back when she had this spell.”

“In accordance with Protocol Number 17,” said she.

The words no sooner left her lips than her breathing told us she was asleep. Doc Muswell asked me to stay awhile and see she drank all of the potion he’d leave. He inquired after my own health, and I told him I was expecting.

“The married woman’s disease,” he said. When I confessed to coughing blood, he shook his head. “Mamie, it’s as I’ve said. You’ll have to get by on one lung the rest of your life.”

Then he took a packet from his bag and pressed it into my hand. “As a sedative for coughs, this is five times stronger than morphine,” he said. By the lion and globe on the label, I recognized it as Bayer Heroin Powder. “Use it sparingly, and you won’t become habituated. You will have call for it, I think.” I was grateful as this medicine was very dear, and the more costly the cure, the more effective. “With your constitution, you’d do well to avoid stimulating food and drink, heat and cold, singing, hallooing, and declamation.” So saying, he donned his hat and took his leave. Sister opened her eyes then, and I fed her the potion he’d left. She was looking more chipper. “I could not but overhear your conversation,” she said. “You are in a delicate condition. I have a remedy that will damp the fires of bodily mechanism and shallow the breath, resting your inflamed lung and encouraging the cavities to close.”

Nothing could be more powerful than the nostrum of a consecrated virgin. This I knew.

“It is Indian Perfection Medicine. Take it when your time comes, and the pain will not threaten you,” she said.

Hearing this, my heart soared, for I knew Katherine Tekakwitha had answered my prayer. I figured Sister got the recipe from a Mohawk maiden with a difficult vocation, and I thanked her feelingly.

Reprinted from The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton. Copyright (c) 2008. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Caught in the Revolution
    Caught in the Revolution
    by Helen Rappaport
    So taken were BookBrowse's First Impression reviewers by the inside look at the start of the Russian...
  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

Modal popup -