My Notorious Life
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My Notorious Life

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4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  2,763 ratings  ·  515 reviews
“Exquisitely written and richly detailed, My Notorious Life is a marvel. Kate Manning’s rags-to-riches Dickensian saga brings to vivid life the world of nineteenth-century New York City, in all its pitiful squalor and glittering opulence. I loved this novel.” —Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

A brilliant rendering of a scandalous hist...more
ebook, 448 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Scribner (first published June 1st 2013)
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  • My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
    My Notorious Life: A Novel
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    Release date: Aug 05, 2014
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    Giveaway dates: Jul 09 - Aug 04, 2014
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    Countries available: US
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    Historical Fiction 2013
    86th out of 574 books — 2,233 voters
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    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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    Tania
    new York City was the roofless and only domicile of thirty-five thousand children. in our hideous number we scraps was cast outdoors or lost by our parents, we was orphans and half orphans and runaways, the miserable offspring of irish and germans, italians and Russians, servants and slaves, Magdalenes and miscreants, all the unwashed poor huddled slubs who landed yearning and unlucky on the Battery with nothing to own but our muscles and teeth, the hunger of our bellies.

    3.5 stars. This was an e...more
    Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
    My View:
    How to begin – this book is extraordinary and exquisite and I loved every word on every page! This book has much to offer- it is a historical feminist work of fiction “based partly on the life and death of Ann Trow Lohman (1811-79) also known as Madame Restell who practiced midwifery in New York for almost forty year” (Author’s note). It is a love story, it is a story of overcoming adversity where the heroine actually wins, and it is a story of courage, devotion, family and humanity at w...more
    Megan Brain
    My Notorious Life By Madame X by Kate Manning is my favorite book of the year so far. Based loosely on the story of a midwife who lived in the late 1800's it demonstrates some of the issues faced by women at the time and some of societies opinions on "Women's business." The book starts off by introducing Axie Muldoon, the main character and her siblings, while they are out scavenging for food they meet a man who offers to help them. They accept his offer of food and are happy with his kindness a...more
    Barb
    Historical Fiction is my favorite genre and I love reading books set in the 1800s. I was excited to read this story based on the life of Ann Trow Lohman, known as Madame Restell who practiced as a female physician in New York City for forty years.

    The author thoughtfully illustrates the way women's lives were bound by their fertility before birth control was legal. She gives the protagonist, Axie/Annie Muldoon personal experiences that guide her path in life to becoming a midwife and healer to w...more
    Diane S.
    Written in somewhat of a melodramatic fashion and yes sometimes I felt a little too dramatic yet it was impossible for me to not get caught up in Axie's story. For one thing I just love this character's name, Axie Muldoon, just resonated for me for some reason.

    That this book is loosely built on the real life person of a female medical doctor once considered the Wickedest Women in New York, is a plus because it makes the story so much more genuine. This book contains so much history, and I feel...more
    Angela
    There's the hook right at the beginning and I didn't want to stop reading . Then there are the three hungry children on the streets of New York in the mid 1860's. Before you know it they are on the Orphan Train for Illinois, though not yet orphans .

    Several months later, twelve year old Axie Muldoon is back on the train to New York City, where she really becomes an orphan. Sad and alone, little Axie Muldoon will steal your heart as she dreams of reuniting with her brother and sister . She will ca...more
    Susan
    I first became aware of author Kate Manning with her excellent 2002 novel Whitegirl, a fictional alternative story based on O.J. Simpson and his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. It has been too long since she has written anything new and I was delighted to see that she has now corrected that with this historical work. Again, the story is based on a real person - in this case New York midwife Ann Trow Lohman (1811-1879).

    Using the form of a newly 'discovered' diary, this book tells the life stor...more
    Heather
    If you read one book this year, make it this one. Women's reproductive rights. Immigration and the Orphan Train. Characters you won't forget. Well written. Well researched. And a darn good yarn.
    Alicia
    Once I got past the style of writing, it was a really quite enjoyable!
    A big eye opener to the way things were done back in the day... women's rights, birthing rights, women's health care... The feminist in me really came out :)
    Also, I loved the cover and the print on the inside of the cover!!
    Hannah
    Well, this was a surprise. I won it in a first reads giveaway.

    I expected this to be about a prostitute in Victorian times and was more than pleasantly surprised that it's a completely different subject matter. That element of surprise is fantastic and it's actually a far more interesting and intriguing read because of the profession that Madame X is involved in :)

    This is a real page turner, fairly easy read that doesn't feel at all like a slog. Often, books this long can feel a bit of a drag but...more
    Amelia Gremelspacher
    The narrator of this book is a plucky girl from the tenements who refuses to allow her status to determine her whole life. I must be getting cranky, because honestly the plot line made me sigh at first. Lately it seems that a number of women in literature have beaten the odds in old New York. I even checked the publishing date to make sure I haven't read it. Nonetheless, I was quickly engaged in the story of Ann/Axey. Her character is as ready to criticize her own behavior as she is to complain...more
    Jenny
    “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” -Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes

    This quote is true for Axie Muldoon, the hardscrabble heroine of My Notorious Life. An Orphan Train reject, Axie returns home heartbroken, only to watch her mother die in childbi...more
    ♫~Sapfo~♫
    Despite the fact that this was a very sad and tragic read at times, I loved it. I loved Axie Muldoon! She was a very strong and courageous woman. This novel was loosely based on the true story of Ann Trow Lohman, also known as Madame Restell, midwife and abortionist. The story covers a period in history where womens rights were non-existent. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction.
    Barb
    I was recently in Town Hall in New York City, a theater created for The League for Politcal Education in 1921. I saw a plaque showing Margaret Sanger's arrest from the stage where she was speaking about birth control. An advocate of woman's rights, she founded the American Birth Control League (now known as Planned Parenthood). With this heroine in mind, I was lucky to read Kate Manning's wonderful novel, based on a true turn of the century character of an earlier advocate for women's' reproduct...more
    Martha
    I have to say this is one of those rare books that has it all: an amazing story, historic detail that is well integrated into the telling of it, a narrator you can't help but empathize with, and circumstances that raise some age old questions and debate about women's reproductive rights. Kate Manning is a clever author. As Axie Muldoon tells her story she drops some tantalizing hints about what is to come, sometimes only the slimmest of observations or a thought that promises a significant insi...more
    Sam Still Reading
    May 25, 2013 Sam Still Reading rated it 5 of 5 stars
    Recommends it for: historical fiction fans and all women
    Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: sent to me by the publisher - thank you!
    In my reading life, there aren’t too many books that I start the minute I lay my hands on them. Usually, I’m reading two (or three or four) books at the same time, so everything takes its place in the queue. However, as soon as I opened My Notorious Life by Madame X, I was hooked. Somewhere around Chapter Two I thought I should move out of the hallway and sit down; many hours later, I was still reading. A few late nights later when I read the final page, I really wanted to read it again.

    We’ve ha...more
    Danelle
    This is how historical fiction should be done.


    In My Notorious Life Kate Manning gives us the story of Axie Muldoon, a scrap of a girl born to Irish immigrants who lives in the tenements of New York City in 1860. Axie grows up to become one of the most wealthy and most controversial women of all time.

    Told in Axie's words, we learn of how she was taken from her mother and then separated from her siblings. Later, she becomes an apprentice in a doctor's clinic which in turn, led to her fortune and n...more
    Lori
    What an amazing story!!! As I read a novel like this, I am continuously reminded of how thankful I am for the rights that women now have!!! Even today, these issues still cause a lot of controversy... Manning does a wonderful job, through Axie's voice, of putting a face to the issues of birth control and I feel that regardless of your views it's impossible not to empathize with the difficult plight of these women!!!
    Beth
    Manning has created a vivid, brilliant and unforgettable character in Axie Muldoon, reeling us in from the first pages of her sometimes horrifying orphan childhood to the last words of her notorious life. This is officially on the short list of favorite books and I hope it captures the attention of a smart film producer. My reviews don't contain spoilers, and I only spend the time writing one if I'm blown away. I was blown away. The rich, complex relationships and emotions play against Axie's vi...more
    Linda
    The descriptive writing in this book is a time traveling machine. I was instantly transported to late 19th century New York. The book comes on strong right "outta da'box." If one wants to visit a time when women and children were at the complete mercy of society, lived without civil rights, labor rights, and reproductive rights, this book will give you an education by way of living it for yourself. This book is an exquisite page turner, full of surprises, tears, laughter, sarcasm and wit. The ma...more
    Sam
    I got this book through a goodreads giveaway and it's a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover. I probably wouldn't have picked this book out in a shop or library but am I glad I've read it? YES!!
    Once you get past the style of writing (and the fact this copy wasn't edited) you have yourself an amazing story that you get completely immersed in and only lift your head when it's time to go to work. The story is partly based on a real life Victorian midwife called Ann Trow Lohman and is...more
    Andi (A Literal Hottie)
    May 20, 2014 Andi (A Literal Hottie) rated it 5 of 5 stars
    Recommends it for: fans of Historical Fiction
    this is the best book I've read all year!! I love love loved it all. The story was interesting from the very beginning and it was one of those that I didn't want to finish because I grew so very attached to Axie and all her drama. I can see how some people might not like the content, or feel uncomfortable reading it as abortion is a very controversial topic but all I can say is YAY for Historical Fiction!
    Stuart Smith
    This novel takes you on one woman’s journey to prevail against impoverished circumstances. Set against New York City’s historical backdrop that includes scenes from the 1863 New York Draft Riot and the migration of the elite social class to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue estates, Manning has painted a portrait of women’s rights in a time period that will stimulate thought in readers of all classes and genders to question and respect how far we’ve come as a country in terms of women’s birthing rights....more
    Melissa Crytzer Fry
    My book club chose this book for our March club (yet to be held), and a few of my friends couldn’t wait until then to share with me how much they loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as well – set in the hardscrabble streets of New York in the 1860s where street children were so often whisked away on orphan trains to rural areas (and often used as ‘free’ labor).

    The story begins with a dead body in a bathtub, goes back in time to the main character’s childhood, and finally circles back aroun...more
    Barbara
    Taking place in the mid-1800’s in New York City, this novel captures the period of American history when immigrants came to our country and were treated badly. It captures the time in our jurisprudence when there were few individual rights and accusations could be made with little validation. Kate Manning bases this novel on the life of Ann Lohman who practiced as a “female Physician” in NYC. The other historical figures in the novel are Anthony Comstock(founder of the Society for the Suppressi...more
    Jennifer
    I enjoyed the basic plot of this book, but all the literary artifaces of the author were annoying and distracting, from the attempt to write in a working class Irish voice, the ** between all the swear words and the endless newspaper articles and advertisements. They really got in the way of an otherwise interesting story.
    Wynne Kontos
    This book was so much fun.
    The entire time I read it I kept thinking what a PROJECT writing something like this must be-getting down the slang, the language, the cultural/societal details, capturing New York during this time period, the medical knowledge-and feeling like a lazy writer myself. Kate Manning never wavers in her authenticity as her lead, Anne "Axie" Muldoon, once an orphan now a self-made woman as a midwife.

    Called Axie for "axing" so many questions, the Muldoon siblings-Axie, Duches...more
    Carol
    I really enjoyed this book. It illustrates the life and obstacles women and children of New York's poorest had to endure in the latter half of the 1800's. The story is fiction, but based on the trials of a real woman who practiced as a midwife and attended to women's medical needs. Women were faced with many difficult choices at that time and weather she was poor or from wealthy circumstances childbearing was risky business. And should the child be shall we say unexpected, a woman could be cast...more
    Sheree
    My Notorious Life is loosely based on the 19th century New York midwife and abortionist Ann Trow better known as Madame Restell. With stunning attention to detail Kate Manning chronicles the life of Axie Muldoon, giving readers an unflinching and intimate view of a woman's lot in life in 19th century America.

    I've read many novels about women in this period, their options and rights in relation to health and fertility sadly lacking regardless of social class, the high risk of sexual exploitation...more
    Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    A compelling and provocative tale, author Kate Manning blends history and imagination to create a wonderfully rich portrait of an extraordinary character. My Notorious Life is loosely based on the history of 19th-century New York midwife and abortionist Ann Trow Lohman, better known as Madame Restell.

    The narrative of this tale is in the first person point of view and takes the form of a journal, chronicling the life of Axie (Ann) Muldoon. It begins with thirteen year old Axie begging with her y...more
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    RJ Reads (Reprodu...: Historically accurate but racist language/epithets 7 28 Jul 10, 2014 02:50PM  
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    A former documentary television producer (for WNET-13, where she won two Emmy Awards), Kate Manning would rather read than watch TV. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, Glamour, and More magazine. She has taught writing at Bard High School Early College. She lives with her family in New York City. You can read Chapter One of MY NOTORIOU...more
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    “—Shush sweet baby, I said, so tired, and mixed her gripe water with whiskey and dill weed, but it did no good, so I seen now why lullabies was all about cradles falling from trees, oh dear, when the wind blows, down will come baby, whoops too bad, but at least it’s quiet.” 2 likes
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