Book Review: The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer

wetnurse1Title: The Wet Nurse’s Tale
Author: Erica Eisdorfer
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Putnam
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First line: There was snow on the ground when my time came.

The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer has one of the pluckiest heroines I’ve come across in historical fiction, reminding me a bit of Jane Harris’s wonderful The Observations.

Susan Rose is the oldest of the Rose family’s many offspring. Her family has survived on the income her mother brought in by working as a wet nurse. Susan has many memories of two babies in cradle, one of her sisters or brothers, and the child her mother was nursing for pay. Her father drinks most of the money away, but the family manages to survive by sending the children to work at the Big House as servants as soon as they are of age.

Susan goes to work as a scullery maid at the house, along with her sisters. When her sister Ellen, the most fragile of the girls, is raped by the master of the house, the Rose family is devastated, and the griefs just keep on coming. In the course of events, Susan has need to find work at her mother’s profession, as a wet-nurse. Her experiences in the homes of the gentry make for intriguing reading. Also fascinating are the interludes between the chapters, in which various mothers explain their reason for needing to send their child to a wet nurse.

Having just finished Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I couldn’t help but make a comparison between the two books, since both involve a young woman taken advantage of by a member of the upper class. The biggest difference is in the characters themselves. While things seem to just happen to Tess, Susan Rose makes things happen. She doesn’t simply take the outrages foisted upon her, she takes matters into her own hands and makes her own future. While the book doesn’t end with each and every loose end completely tied up, I was convinced by Susan’s gumption that things were going to go her way after all.

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16 Responses to Book Review: The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer

  1. I have this on my TBR pile and you’re getting me all excited to read it!

  2. stacybuckeye says:

    Interesting comparison to Tess. Glad to hear that Susan Rose has more gumption.

  3. Hmm… I really love Tess, and it is interesting that you compared them. I requested a review copy of this book last week… I think I did, anyway. I can’t wait for it to get here ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Jen – it’s a quick read, too – only 260 pages. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Stacy – she definitely has more gumption!

    Kool-Aid Mom – this is a much faster read, because Eisdorfer doesn’t have Hardy’s penchant for going on and on and on in flowery description. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Laura
    Twitter: bookingit
    says:

    Nice review! I’ll keep my eye out for this book.

  6. Ladybug says:

    Nice review, CarrieK! I have my eye on this one but I’ve still not decided if this is a book for me.

  7. Kathy says:

    You’ve got me wanting to read this one – it sounds wonderful!

  8. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Laura – thanks!

    Ladybug – I’m sure you’ll be seeing more reviews around soon – I saw this on a lot of people’s Mailbox Monday posts a while ago.

    Kathy – I hope you like it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Fyrefly says:

    I just started this book this afternoon… glad to hear it keeps going as good as it started!

  10. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Fyrefly – I was reading two novels, but ended up putting the other aside while I finished this one, cause it grabbed me!

  11. Pingback: Erica Eisdorfer – The Wet Nurse’s Tale « Fyrefly’s Book Blog

  12. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Saturday Review of Books: June 27, 2009

  13. Heather J. says:

    I’m so glad this one is good! I’ve got a review copy waiting to be read and now I can look forward to picking it up. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (Here from the Historical Fiction Carnival)
    .-= Heather J.ยดs last blog .."The Gathering Storm" Tour Dates Announced =-.

  14. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – September 13, 2009 (The “BBAW Preview and Giveaway” edition) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  15. Kathleen says:

    This was a fantastic book. I could not put it down….This is a must read…