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My Notorious Life: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Kate Manning
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (404 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.85
You Save: $6.15 (38%)
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: 2969 KB
  • Print Length: 449 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A28HTKO
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,387 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 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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36 of 40 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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123 of 147 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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR... MAYBE THE LAST 10 YEARS! January 6, 2014
Format:Hardcover
**BEST BOOK I HAVE READ IN 10 YEARS!!!**
Sorry for the screaming, but this book deserves it. I don't understand why everyone isn't talking about this book, but I guess it just came out in September. Do yourself a favor, and go get it now. Haven't loved a book this much since "The Help," and I loved this one ten times more!!!

Yes, I know the title is terrible. I don't know what the publisher was thinking. Any other title would have been better: "The Diary of Mrs. X," "The True Adventures of Axie Muldoon," "Mrs. Jones Female Lunar Powder," "The Vilification of Madame Debeausacq"... the list goes on and on. The title makes this book seem like something it's not.

Let me tell you what it is: An amazingly rich and detailed look at mid-19th Century NYC from the point of view of one of the city's many immigrant orphans. She's put on the notorious "orphan train" to the Midwest, comes back, and ends up apprenticed to a midwife. As if all that wasn't interesting enough, this is the time in history when male doctors suddenly decided that midwifery was evil, and women had no business caring for other women. The tension between the newly emerging medical community and the thousand-year-old practice of midwifery is fantastic, eye-opening, and will stay with you. It begins with a splash and a mystery, and ends in a deeply satisfying way. Great, great book. Loved every single page.

On top of that, the book is so, so, so well written. The main character Axie Muldoon becomes your best friend, and when the book is over, you will find yourself evicted from the deliciously descriptive world Manning has created, and bereft. Cannot wait to see what Manning does next!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Madam
Good description of living in NYC in olden days. A little eye opening re Madams exploits, but you had to like and admire her.
Published 14 hours ago by Anne J. Neilson
5.0 out of 5 stars ... a woman but never looses the heart of a poor child.
This is a well-written and engaging historical novel that depicts injustices in our society in the 19th century through the eyes of a girl who grows into a woman but never looses... Read more
Published 17 hours ago by Sabrinadrvr
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 19 hours ago by Chris Carlson
4.0 out of 5 stars My notorious life: a novel
The author, Kate Manning sucks you into the lives of her characters and the infancy of New York when electricity wasn't common. You can see, smell and taste their movements. Read more
Published 3 days ago by J plant
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of women's history still relevant in 2014
I, with Irish heritage, felt grateful to be reading a woman's story based on historical facts. The author explores human defense mechanisms we all use to protect our fragile... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Barbara
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Ride!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a great story, and what else can you ask for?
Published 4 days ago by Ukknight
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting book
Published 5 days ago by judith scroggins
4.0 out of 5 stars but I do love a well written one
I do not read a lot of historical fiction, but I do love a well written one. This novel was one of those well written one. Read more
Published 8 days ago by A. Jacobson
4.0 out of 5 stars Compassion faces
A powerful and compelling story of moralistic political attitudes toward women in the 19th century which have brought us to present day. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Bythebook
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read
Very interesting story and is 'loosely' based on a real midwife back in the 1800's.
Was written in a very different manner, but I enjoyed it very much and would
recommend... Read more
Published 12 days ago by P. Jones
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