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The Wet Nurse's Tale Paperback – August 3, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her first novel, Eisdorfer offers as a guide to Victorian England her entertaining and surprising protagonist, Susan Rose. A bawdy young woman who could easily have walked off the pages of The Canterbury Tales, Susan ends up wet-nursing after getting unexpectedly and illicitly pregnant, and her alcoholic and abusive father forces her to leave her child and take up the occupation. Her journey into the intimate lives of England's upper crust proves an illuminating and dangerous one as Susan jumps from family to family—until her father sells her son. As Susan attempts to balance other peoples' babies with her quest to regain her own, she is faced with difficult choices between duty and love, and between her life and her child's. Whether she is carousing in the Jewish quarter or planning how to reclaim her son, Susan navigates the stratified social world with humorous vigor. A promiscuous, randy and hefty lady, Susan's a vibrant character, at once sweet and scheming, and given to such a crass frankness that even readers wary of historicals may want to give this a look. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


aI really loved this book. Erica Eisdorfer managed to completely vanish into the voice of her really appealing narratorathe plucky, somewhat randy, always sympathetic, and certainly never boring professional wet nurse, Miss Susan Rose.a
aElizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love"

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425234479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425234471
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Erica Eisdorfer was born in Durham, North Carolina. She and her two brothers spent a lot of time in trees. Due to birth order and bossiness, she was always the admiral, the head chef, the teacher, the mayor and the president in the tree game of the moment. Finally her brothers realized that they didn't have to take it anymore and went off to play with their trucks, leaving her alone forever. It was then that she began to love reading.

She attended public schools in Durham, NC in the sixties. She recalls the smell of curing tobacco at recess. She recalls her parents hosting a "flower power" cocktail party for their friends. She recalls her second grade teacher who, when they were recently united by a social networking site, told her that when she (the teacher) had applied for the job at Hope Valley School, she (the teacher) was asked two questions, to wit: a) are you on a mission? b) are you taking birth control pills?

For the past 25 years or so, Erica Eisdorfer has managed the Bull's Head Bookshop at UNC-Chapel Hill. Luckily for her, the gigantic Davis Library is mere steps from her office. Often, she takes books home for research on wet nursing, eclipses, baseball, women rabbis of the 70's, utopian communities...whatever project she's working on at the moment.

She lives in Carrboro, North Carolina with her husband and two daughters.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Erica Eisdorfer nails the Victorian era. She is on top of the class divide, the race divide and the gender divide. Her main character, Susan Rose, speaks in a working-class dialect that is neither stilted nor affected. I value this highly as it is a nuance that something many authors cannot master. Eisdorfer also introduces some characters only for the brief spell of one or two pages, each one sharing his or her reasons for hiring a wet nurse. These people, too, come alive off the page and you get to know their personalities very well, even if you only interact with them for two pages. I really enjoyed these vignettes that Eisdorfer put in at the end of every chapter. They were fun to read and would sometimes be alluded to later in the story as well. In fact, I feel certain that one of the vignettes has a large bearing on the end of the story, only I can't quite put my finger on how the two are connected. I will have to mull over that some more.

Susan, though, steals the show. She is so wonderfully real and easy to identify with. She does not beg for sympathy from anyone, and does not have stupid affectations to get attention. Susan isn't the most fabulous and exciting woman in literature. But she sets her mind on a goal and goes for it, and one can't help admiring a woman for that.

The only quibble I had with this book was its unexpected plunge into a somewhat Gothic storyline. I did not see that coming at all, from the start, and the book was a bit darker than I expected because of it. But the story is compelling and plausible, and Eisdorfer knows her Victorians. I'd highly recommend the book to any fans of historical fiction!
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Format: Hardcover
I first encountered The Wet Nurse's Tale as an finalist excerpt in last year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. I was disappointed when it finished--I wanted the rest of the story! It was one of only two excerpts I gave five stars to. I finished that review saying I would not only buy this novel, I would buy it new in hardback.

Well, I did just that. And it's so worth it.

I typically read sci-fi, fantasy, historical romance, and animal stories. I own very few general fiction books--those found in the "literature" section at Border's. But The Wet Nurse's Tale caught my interest and never let go.

Despite this being Eisdorfer's debut novel, it's extremely well-written. It flows along and brings you with it, just as easy and entertaining as any long-established author's book. The protagonist, Susan Rose, is very believable. Her voice is realistic, and her views are both enlightening and amusing. The situations and attitudes fit the time period. The between-chapters vinettes are just the right length to give a glimpse of these mothers and their various reasons for giving up nursing. Nothing jars you from the read, nothing about it disturbs your enjoyment of this setting Eisdorfer has created.

I highly recommend this, not only to gen fiction and historical fiction readers, but to anyone who enjoys a well-written, interesting, and entertaining book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Wet Nurse's Tale is the story of young Susan Rose, who must find work as a wet nurse when her baby is taken from her. The story offers a fresh perspective into the lives of the servants who must wait on the very rich, even when they are treated as if they are no more than things. Susan is a clever protagonist who can think her way out of any situation, even though she can't read or write. She is kind and attentive, and earns trust from almost everyone she comes in contact with. But she also proves fierce and cunning when the well being of her own baby is at stake. I enjoyed this story tremendously, as it is both entertaining and emotional. It is a wonderful example of a mother's love for her child. I also enjoyed the little stories at the end of each chapter that told why certain women would choose to put their babies up with a wet nurse instead of nursing the babies themselves. It was a quick read and left me wanting more of Susan at the end.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel follows the story of Susan Rose, a wet nurse to the rich, like her mother before her. While her mother took children into her home; raised and nursed them along with her own, Susan is a new generation of wet nurses- ones that live alongside their masters and are privy to their lives.
This was a very entertaining and quick read, I got caught up in the story and finished it within the night. In order to be a wet nurse, you must have a child of your own first-- and the story begins here. Eisdorfer jumps through time with her character, beginning at the birth of Susan's first child, then jumping back to her own childhood. She manages this in such a way that you never feel disjointed-- only eager to find out what happens next.
Even though I knew the basic facts about wet nursing, this book was also informative, and I enjoyed learning more about the Victorian child rearing culture. Wet nursing seems so foreign to us now, but it was a mainstream fact of life at one point in time. Interspersed between chapters of Susan's story are short vignettes by mothers (and sometimes fathers) giving their reasons for searching out a wet nurse, and choosing Susan's mother. At first I was confused by the story's interruption, but as the book goes on Eisdorfer does a good job marrying these short chapters into the story as a whole, and they end up adding to the tale.
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