by KATE MANNING
Based on a true story from the scandalized headlines of Victorian New York City, My Notorious Life is a portrait of Axie Muldoon, the impoverished daughter of Irish Immigrants who becomes an enormously successful—and controversial—midwife. Separated from her siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, Axie parlays the sale of a few bottles of “lunar tonic for relief of female complaint” into a thriving practice as a female physician known as “Madame X.” But as she rises from the gutter to the glitter of Fifth Avenue, Axie discovers that the right way is not always the way of the law, and that you should never trust a man who says, “trust me.” But what if that man is an irresistible risk-taker with a poetical soul? Soon, Axie’s choices put her on a collision course with one of the most zealous characters of her era: Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and it will take all of her power and wealth to outwit him and save herself and her family from ruin.
A love story, a family saga, and a vivid rendering of a historical time and heated political climate, My Notorious Life is the tale of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world. Axie Muldoon is a heroine for the ages.
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” …take(s) center stage throughout the latter half, it’s the details of Madame X’s private life… 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.
- Publisher’s Weekly (☆ Starred Review)
“Not just a splendidly page-turning story of an angry orphan clawing her way up in the world, but a gripping docu-drama about women’s business (in several senses) in nineteenth-century America. My Notorious Life gives midwifery its full dues: the glories and the miseries, the feminism and the money, the literally bloody ethical dilemmas. Unflinchingly memorable.”
-Emma Donoghue, author of Room
“My Notorious Life is wonderful fun. The wit and verve of its unsinkable heroine make this novel a delight to read, even in its most harrowing passages. Beyond that, it’s a book that matters–now more than ever. Faithfully true to the time of its setting, it is also extremely relevant to ours.”
-Madison Smartt Bell, Author, All Soul’s Rising and The Stone That the Builder Refused
“Impossible to put down.”
-The Bookseller (UK)
““Kate Manning has taken a little known nugget of history and spun it into a remarkable novel that is mesmerizing and resonant. Her New York City of the late nineteenth century is passionately evoked, and Axie Muldoon is as fierce and alive a character as I have read in recent fiction. In its exploration of a subject no less pressing now than it was over a hundred years ago, My Notorious Life is an essential novel for our time.”
–Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin
“My Notorious Life is a must read for anyone who likes their novels smart, entertaining and provocative. Axie Muldoon’s lively, remarkable story begins with an unexpected death and an identity switch and never lets up until the end. Masterful. Really.”
-Whitney Otto, author of How to Make an American Quilt and Eight Girls Taking Pictures
“If you liked Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, you’ll want to read My Notorious Life by Madame X. This novel…is both riveting and morally intriguing.”
-Stylist magazine, (UK)