Title: The Wet Nurse’s Tale
Author: Erica Eisdorfer
Release Date: August 6, 2009
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Susan Rose is the daughter of a working class family living in Victorian England. Her mother is a wet nurse, working for the upper class families in the areas. Her father is a brute of a man, turned abusive because of the effects of alcohol. Susan and her siblings work at the Great House as maids, laundresses, and grooms, but when Susan finds herself pregnant, she decides to follow in her mother’s footsteps and becomes a wet nurse.
I’d heard of The Wet Nurse’s Tale when it was released in hardcover, but it really didn’t pique my interest. However, then I started seeing reviews of it around the blogosphere, and for the most part, they were very good. Therefore, when I received it for review when it was released in paperback, I was determined not to ignore it and to see what it was that people so enjoyed about it.
I was pleasantly surprised with The Wet Nurse’s Tale. Erica Eisdorfer creates a great atmosphere, and to add gravitas to the story, she inserts small vignettes in between the chapters. In these, we get glimpses into “the other side” – the rich women who couldn’t or didn’t want to nurse their own babies, and thus sought out the Rose women as wet nurses. I appreciated this, as it gives the reader a more well rounded view of the entire situation.
The Wet Nurse’s Tale moves slowly, especially at the beginning, and as a result I was unsure about it for some time. While the speed doesn’t pick up significantly, it was Susan herself that really won me over. She’s funny and sweet and is just an endearing character all around. She’s not educated, so she’s not the smartest, but she just comes across as so genuine and real, I couldn’t help but enjoy her story and root for her. Had Eisendorfer written a less winning protagonist, I may have passed on this book, but Susan was just too much fun to ignore.
The Wet Nurse’s Tale is an enjoyable, interesting look at a profession that isn’t widely covered in historical fiction. I really enjoyed Susan’s story, and I look forward to reading more of Erica Eisdorfer’s books.