“Exquisitely written and richly detailed, My Notorious Life is a marvel. Kate Manning’s rags-to-riches Dickensian saga brings to vivid life the world of nineteenth-century New York City, in all its pitiful squalor and glittering opulence. I loved this novel.” —Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
A brilliant rendering of a scandalous historical figure, Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life is an ambitious, thrilling novel introducing Axie Muldoon, a fiery heroine for the ages. Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day.
In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.”
When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear.
Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mystery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present.
Loosely based on the life of Ann Trow Lohman (aka Madame Restell), the infamous abortionist who became known as "the Wickedest Woman in New York," Manning's second rags-to-riches novel (after Whitegirl) nimbly resurrects the bold woman behind the scandalous headlines. Manning's Axie Muldoon endured a scrappy childhood as the fierce and foul-mouthed eldest daughter of Irish immigrants living amidst the filth of lower Manhattan. She began her midwifery apprenticeship at 14, and learned when to administer "Lunar Tablets for the relief of Female Obstruction," before becoming the renowned Madame X with a thriving business (her newspaper ad reads "Renowned Female Physician") of her own. 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. While Muldoon's public battle against the "lying weevils and scandalmongers of the New York press" as well as old codger Comstock the Chairman of the Society for the Suppression of Vice take center stage throughout the latter half, it's the details of Madame X's private life, told in her thick Irish brogue about the search for her long-lost siblings, her fiery relationship with her devoted husband, and her growth as a mother that lend a human face to a this sensational figure.
My Notorious Life
An amazing heroine. An engaging story. Thoroughly enjoyed the tale of this rags to riches midwife. Extremely topical.
Reading this book showed me how far American has come in the treatment of women. I am proud of our advancement
Couldn't put it down!!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book... It's now amongst my top favorites along with Orphan Train and The Kitchen House. It is believable (although a work of fiction, based loosely on historical events and a midwife of the 1800's) and keeps the pages turning. Highly recommended!