The Wetnurse’s Tale
The Wetnurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer
(G. P. Putnam’s Sons, August 2009)
Reviewed by Annie Leonard (Knoxville, Iowa) May 2009
I picket up this book expecting to be floated along by a comfortable “Upstairs-Downstairs” sort of tale, and was instead caught in the undertow by this riveting tale of the life of a working class family in Victorian England.
Susan Rose is one of many children in a brood born to a wet nurse and a battering alcoholic, and follows her destiny by going to the ‘Big House’ to work as a domestic servant as soon as she is old enough. Susan is canny and hardworking, and though not a beautiful girl by her own estimation, in time she catches the eye of the ‘Young Master’ in a sort of unavoidable calamity. After months of clandestine encounters in the pantry, she finds herself, not unexpectedly, pregnant.
The rest of the novel details how she responds to this eventuality and its rippling consequences with pragmatic grit and often ruthless determination, shattering the conventional stereotypes of novels of this era, and stripping away all romanticism while painting a portrait of unswerving love.
If you enjoy historical novels, or stories about strong women, this is a don’t miss!