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 X
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

Every week they went into Watervliet to buy our groceries at Dufrane’s Market. While the clerk was making up the order, they’d go across the street to Sherlock’s Grill. Once they’d left, I noticed the pains were coming closer. Mamie, I said, this baby is going places. I stopped scrubbing the floor and began scouring buckets and bowls. I pumped water for boiling and placed torn strips of cloth in the oven to bake clean. A woman in labor should have plenty fixed for others to eat, yet I was caught short. I could only put a big plate of bread and butter on the table.

In our bedroom off the parlor, I set out the spotless containers along with a bar of carbolic. I tied a twisted towel around the headboard rails and fastened two more, like reins, at the foot. Then I covered the room and the bed with old issues of the Troy Record. Some expectant mothers put their own laying-out clothes in a bottom drawer, but my warm hopes would not allow this. I was thinking of the here and now, not the always was and will be. If you go to bed, the infant sleeps and you have to start again. So I kept pacing.

After the third birth, things get riskier. I tried to keep my mind on the happy deliveries and forget the poor devils I had seen. I would not think of the abnormal presentations, hemorrhages, obstructions, retained afterbirths, blood poisonings, convulsions, milk legs, and childbed fevers. Working for Doc Muswell, I’d seen prolapsed women full of ironmongery, pessaries to hold their insides in. Childbirth left them wearing these “threshing machines” only hoop skirts could hide. Such trials swept through my mind in Kinetoscopic flashes. Yet those poor devils did not have Sister’s remedy. This I knew.

The children were outside playing pirate, and I called Edna in. “You’re a young miss now,” I told her. She was all of nine. “You can be your mother’s helper.” I asked her to go upstairs and alert Kitty, who soon appeared and settled herself on the divan like a brooding hen. When a pain came, I shushed, and when it let up, I started bossing the job again. All along I was trying to gauge the labor’s progress, whether I was at the dime, nickel, quarter, half-dollar, or teacup stage. At the teacup stage, I would be “fully delighted,” as Doc Muswell said. I figured I was halfway there.

It was twilight, and I was lying down to catch my breath, when Kitty began hollering from the yard. Mamie Come Running! she said. The team is back! Rushing out, I saw the wagon and lathered horses but no sign of Joe or Bill. By the ropes of green froth dribbling from their bits, I could see Ned and Susie had grabbed a bite to eat. “We’ll have to unhitch the horses,” I told her. “They are such great brutes, Mamie. Do let’s leave them as they are. But what of William and Joe? Do you suppose they were thrown and are even now lying in some dark spot?”

“Joe and Bill are skillful whips,” I said. “If they got thrown, then they must foot it.” I knew those brothers were not brawling or visiting sweethearts. Nothing ventured, nothing lost, that was the Garrahan motto.

I watered and unharnessed the horses without coming to harm, and when I returned, Kitty was strewn across my newspapered bed in an attitude of weeping. “Perhaps the dainty waist and deep full inspirations of some Watervliet wanton have commanded William’s admiration,” she said. I could hear Edna trying to convince my Joseph and baby Dorothy it was bedtime. Charlotte was singing them a little song. I scrubbed the horse dirt off and lit the oil lamps. Then I lay down on the divan. Now that the pain was mustering, I wondered out loud if I’d have enough of Sister’s remedy.

“Mother, if you needed more, we could have made it ourselves,” Edna piped up. Having settled the little ones, she and Charlotte were giving me big looks. I only half listened as she prattled about Papaver somniferum and lancing the pods so sticky flower milk oozed out. She spoke of scraping, drying, beating, molding, boiling, skimming, and straining, but it wasn’t till she mentioned covering the cakes with white poppy petals that I sat up and attended. The word “poppy” had roused me.

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!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Overstory
    The Overstory
    by Richard Powers
    Many glowing adjectives can be used to describe a novel by Richard Powers: brilliant, moving, ...
  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

    A riveting story of survival, and the power of stories to save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!


Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

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.