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My Notorious Life: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Kate Manning
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (264 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $26.99
Kindle Price: $12.99
You Save: $14.00 (52%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

“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.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Big Fall Books Preview 2013: A historical novel of Dickensian sprawl, My Notorious Life is loosely based on the experiences of an infamous midwife in late 19th century New York. While she’s eventually dubbed Madame X by a rabid press. our heroine’s strength is that for all her success at self transformation, she remains forever the orphaned guttersnipe Axie Muldoon--a pioneer for women’s rights before anyone much knew that such rights could exist. But this novel is never pedantic or preachy, just compelling, assured and irresistible. --Sara Nelson

From Booklist

These fictionalized pages from the diary of the infamous Madame X, a self-proclaimed “expert in the subterranean sanguinary aspects of feminine existence,” tell a compelling and tragic (in its way) success story. Manning (White Girl, 2002) convincingly presents willful nineteenth-century child Axie Muldoon, based on an actual person, who was born of piss-poor Irish immigrants but was as prideful as the queen herself. And it’s a good thing too, or else Axie—later to become Mrs. Anne Jones then Madame DeBeausacq then Madame X—might have died of starvation or hypothermia on the streets of an indifferent New York City. Or worse, she might have died in childbirth like her mother. But witnessing her mother’s unnecessary death inflamed a coal in Axie’s heart that burned for every woman she encountered who faced uniquely feminine perils. 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. --Donna Chavez

Product Details

  • File Size: 839 KB
  • Print Length: 449 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1451698062
  • Publisher: Scribner (September 10, 2013)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A28HTKO
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,198 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 125 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I took a walk in the park and there did meet a friend I think of as the sister I never had. She was walking with a friend, Kate Manning. Writer, meet writer. With a difference: Kate's book was about to be published.

Would I read it?

If only as a favor to the sister I never had, of course.

"My Notorious Life: A Novel" arrived. It was everything I do not want. 434 pages. Set in the 19th century. Told in the first person, in 19th century speech. Based, in part, on the life of Ann Trow Lohman (1811-79) also known as Madame Restell, who practiced midwifery in New York for almost forty years.

In sum: a book not likely to hook me, a reader who likes short books about people I might know or want to. But the friend of a friend is my potential friend --- or, at least, someone I can't shun. I started to read:

"It was me who found her. April 1, 1880. The date is engraved on my story same as it is on the headstone, so cold and solid there under the pines. What happened that morning hurts me to this day, enrages me still, though many years have passed.

"The time was just before dawn. She was there in the tub. It had claw feet, gold faucets. Marble was everywhere in that room, so magnificent. A French carpet. A pair of velvet settees, a dressing table, candelabra, powders and pomades, all deluxe. I knew something was wrong right away. When I knocked I knew. There was not no noise of bathing, just that slow drip. That plink of water landing on water, so dreadful. I went in and there she was. A scarf of red across her shoulders, down her chest. The water was red and cold with all her life leaked out. A bloodbath. My hands were trembling. Terrible sounds strangled in my throat, quiet so as not to wake the house.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midwife loves "My Notorious Life" December 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover
As a real life midwife who worked in New York City hospitals for more than two
decades and delivered more than a thousand babies, I loved Kate Manning's "My Notorious Life."
This well-researched beautiful historical novel traces the life of Axie, an impoverished Irish girl from the slums of New York City. Sent out west with her siblings on an "orphan train," she is too rebellious to be adopted either by a childless couple or farm families seeking extra hands. How she becomes a midwife -- and the complexities of that profession, meaning weighing the patients'
needs against the "morality," convention and law of the time -- is the heart of the story.
The issues Axie must face and the way she is hounded by the self-appointed guardians of so-called decency are as timely today as they were more than a century ago. Vivid scenes of childbirth and abortion are accurately described.

Highly recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction or have an interest in women's issues or New York City in the second half of the 19th century.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A trip back in history June 7, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Every once in a while a book comes along which envelops you in a time capsule and carries you off in space and time for a memorable trip back in history. Kate Manning's My Notorious Life was such a story. After experiencing 19th century New York through the eyes of Manning's plucky and outspoken heroine Axie (Ann) Muldoon I have not only learned a great deal about a chapter in America's history I knew little about, but also appreciate the changes in society which have given women of our time so much more control over our own fates.

Born as the eldest daughter of poor Irish immigrants in New York, Axie Muldoon has had to learn to survive at an early age. With her father dead and her mother seriously injured in a work accident, Axie and her two younger siblings are found wandering the streets in search of food and fall into the hands of Reverend Charles Brace of the Children's Aid Society. Whilst he initially promises salvation from starvation, Axie will later come to see the encounter as a black mark in her personal history when both her sister Dutch and her brother Joe are given up for adoption to farming families in Illinois. Rebelling against a similar fate, Axie finds herself back in New York, living a life of poverty in the household of her mother's new husband's family. After the death of her mother due to childbed fever she is taken in as servant to a local doctor and his wife Mrs Evans, who acts as a local midwife and seller of female remedies.

Over the years of service in the Evans' household, Axie learns some valuable skills from Mrs Evans, which will later set her career as midwife and herbalist - as well as making her one of the most notorious women in New York, the mysterious midwife and accused abortionist Madame X.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My Notorious Life by Madame X September 26, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Based on the life of Ann Trow, better known as Madame Restell, an abortionist in Victorian New York City. My Notorious Life by Madame X is the journal of Axie Muldoon found in an attic that tells the story of a daughter of an Irish Immigrant who was orphaned (with her brother and sister) as a child. The kids were broken up and Axie went on to work as a maid and then assistant to a midwife and abortionist. Here she learnt the tricks of the trade, from the lunar tonics (for relief of female complaints), midwifery and abortions.

This is a fictionalised story of what Madame Restell might have gone through. For Axie she witnessed first hand the trials women go through, from period pains all the way to a pregnancy that will bring shame to their family. In an age before any real understanding of women's fertility cycles and contraception, pregnancy can mean the final days for a woman. Even for Axie, she was too afraid to have sex for the fear of dying.

Axie Muldoon is a stubborn and fiery woman, who stands firm in her beliefs and won't stop helping women even when the papers and police are after her. I like the way that this novel didn't suggest abortion as the answer; Axie often would try to help woman in other ways before resorting to such a drastic measure. There are a lot of interesting ideas on Victorian feminism and this novel tries to explore this, and is often successful at this.

An epistolary novel that explores Axie Muldoon's life in the form of journal entries meant that you get an insight into what made her tick and motivated her. I really enjoyed the insights and what happened in this novel will both shock, disturb and get you thinking.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty good
Not the best book I've ever read, but fairly interesting. A little long perhaps. Overall worth a read if you like historical fiction.
Published 4 days ago by Hutchinson
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT, GREAT, GREAT
I really enjoyed this book. The topic may not be for everyone. I liked how the author transitioned the main characters ffrom their rough childhood to their dramatic adult lives.
Published 5 days ago by kstrass
4.0 out of 5 stars Both a history and a statement of women's issues
Pretty sure male legislators are not comfortable with this book. But there will always be abortions - legal or not. Interesting viewpoints of both abortions and mid-wives.
Published 5 days ago by alice bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Look at Women and Reproduction in the 19th Century
This isn't a novel that kept me up all night or that I couldn't put down. It was one that I savored. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Nancy Crays
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent story telling...
It is is hard to put this book down. The author gives you information at certain points in the book and then.......later....you find out what it means. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Sandra G OConnor
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Well-crafted, old-school story with interesting characters and historical detail. I will definitely look for other Kate Manning novels to read.
Published 12 days ago by M. Murphy
4.0 out of 5 stars New and Interesting Topic to Consider
This is a topic I hadn't read about, and found it both interesting and sad. The writing is difficult to understand at the beginning of the novel, but once you understand the... Read more
Published 17 days ago by JG
3.0 out of 5 stars Good historical fiction
I liked it. transported back to a different age.
the life and struggles of that era were displayed in a fresh way
Published 19 days ago by Kindle Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars My Notorious Life Review
Sometimes the story was too verbal and too many unnecessary details made it seem too droll. There were many great sections and so all in all it was a ok.
Published 19 days ago by Gertrud Spina
2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't finish
It actually started out good but it drags on. The pacing could be better. I would like to finish it but there are so many unnecessary words and scenes when it should have gotten... Read more
Published 19 days ago by mary
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