Botwell Green Library – Reading Group #BookReview

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning


For the July Botwell Reading Group, My Notorious Life was discussed. Based on a true story from the scandalised 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.

Synopsis of the book

Inspired by a real midwife who became one of the most controversial figures in Victorian New York City, —part love story, part family saga. The confessions of a charismatic and passionate woman who changed the lives of countless others. Meet the incomparable Axie Muldoon. 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 rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendour of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.”

Reviews & Opinions

As a group we enjoyed this book from cover to cover!

Overall the story was excellent

We would recommend this book to, anyone who enjoys a good read.

Below is a review by reading group member “T”.

“As well as a thundering good read, this story throws up much to think about including, sexual politics, attempts at society to keep individuals ignorant, society and class, unequal distribution of money resources, etc. The power of men over women was interesting, as well as disregard for women’s physical & mental health. The main character was well drawn, balanced, and with her own conflict about what she would and would not do. She was happy to enjoy the money she earned. It also explored her deep seated issues with trust, which was explained by her early childhood and took many decades to overcome.

Just the sort of book I hope to find by joining the book club!

Very high praise indeed.

About the Author


Kate Manning is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels, Whitegirl, and My Notorious Life. O, the Oprah magazine called My Notorious Life “a daring page-turner, meticulously researched and astonishingly current.” NPR’s Kurt Anderson said, “It’s a fantastic yarn…absolutely Dickensian.” And novelist Marisa Silver writes, “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 19th 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 Lifeis an essential novel for our time.” A former documentary producer for WNET-13, where she won two Emmy Awards, Kate has written for the New York Times, the Washington PostGlamour and More magazines among others. She has taught creative writing at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, where she lives with her family, and a dog named Moon, who walks her regularly.

Thank you for reading.


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