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The Wet Nurse's Tale

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,423 ratings  ·  453 reviews
Bright and clever with a sharp-tongued, adventurous heroine who offers a candid and often funny look at the business of nursing babies in Victorian England, this is a debut novel that will have everyone talking.

Susan Rose isn't the average protagonist: she's scheming, promiscuous, plump, and she is also smart, funny, tender, and entirely lovable. Like many lower-class wome
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 6th 2009 by Putnam Adult
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,423 ratings  ·  453 reviews

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May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Approximately half the population's got 'em.

And throughout the centuries, women have used them to earn money. Baring them on film and in magazines. Shaking them while twirling aroung poles. Using 'em to feed babies.

Wait! What?

That's right. Their main purpose is for feedin' the young'uns. And not that long ago, a woman with few other options could make a living by breast feeding.

After an accidental pregnancy leaves her lactating, Susan Rose earns her keep by going from house to house, fe
Aug 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Linda by: Nancy
Shelves: hist-fic
Susan Rose has been brought up by an abusive drunk of a father and a mother forced into wet-nursing to keep hearth and home together. When Susan, in service at the manor house, finds herself pregnant by the master's son, she is forced by her father into following in her mother's footsteps, only a few weeks after the birth of her son.

Erica Eisendorfer, in a remarkable first novel, has produced a work of originality, interest, and intelligence. No "English rose", Susan is a spirited, strapping yo
Sheri S.
Well, I loved this book! Normally I reserve my 5-star ratings to books that I consider an all-time favorite and would read again, but this book is not one of them!!! However, I think I've read too many books lately that have just been OK or had endings that I did not like! But, woo hoo, this fantastic tale did have a great ending and I was just SO happy that I felt compelled to give it my highest rating (normally would have given this book 4 stars, no, probably 4.5!!!)! This was a superbly writt ...more
Jake Rideout
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Susan Rose's mother is a wet nurse, whose profession is to feed and care for other women's babies until they can be weaned and returned home. Susan's father is a drunk who is always looking for ways to earn an extra shilling. When Susan gives birth to a baby and a desperate mother calls for a wet nurse, Susan finds herself sold to the highest bidder. This is the story of a smart, plucky, adventurous lower-class woman in Victorian England, and it is everything a reader wants in a historical novel ...more
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Erica Eisdorfer nails the Victorian era. She is on top of the class divide, the race divide and the gender divide. Her main character, Susan Rose, speaks in a working-class dialect that is neither stilted nor affected. I value this highly as it is a nuance that something many authors cannot master. Eisdorfer also introduces some characters only for the brief spell of one or two pages, each one sharing his or her reasons for hiring a wet nurse. These people, too, come alive off the page and you g ...more
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
"Mammy how I love, how I love you my dear old mammy." Sorry I could not stop humming that while I was reading The Wet Nurse. Not since Jayne Mansfield have breasts done so much for a career.

I did pick this book up on purpose. Am I expecting? No. Am I contemplating a career change? Yes, but nothing in the diary field. I had made a note of The Wet Nurse when the hardcover came out that I wanted to take a look when the paperback was released. It was, I did and I purchased. Why? Historical interest.
I picked this up at a book sale somewhere and promptly put it on the bottom of the pile to be read and mostly forgotten about. I only pulled it out because I was looking for something to fulfill the requirement of my book bingo square for "a book at the bottom of your to be read pile".

So, score one for the book bingo book challenge because I really loved this. Though I almost set this back on the pile as I was choosing it. When I read there was a mystery
Dec 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
I had hoped to enjoy this book much more than I did; historical fiction, woman in a trade I know little about. But in the end, it's not a book I'd recommend. As far as plot goes, I felt like it had some real merit. The character was likeable and I sympathized with many of her plights.

The first half of the book seemed to spend too much time in the realm of romance novels -- not even love, just the talk of how women became pregnant. There were small sections interspersed called 'Mrs. ______'s rea
Tina Hayes
Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Different from your usual reads, Erica Eisdorfer's "The Wet Nurse's Tale" is a story you won't soon forget. Set in Victorian England, this story spins a tale of Susan Rose as she transitions from working as a maid to a career as a wet nurse.

When Susan Rose gives birth to the grandson to the people she works for at the Great House, she is forced to leave her son behind to earn money for her family by working as a wet nurse for the Chandlers. Though Susan's mother lovingly tends to baby Joey, he
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Wonderful Read to Pass BF-ing hours...

BF-ing = breastfeeding, by the way.

As a mother to a newborn, I've been spending a lot of time in the rocker with my baby.

As per the sentiment of the book's protagonist, Susan Rose, when one's nursing one has a lot of time to think...well one has a lot of time, period :)

This book was an immensely satisfying read for me. The character of Susan Rose was very vital and her voice was a pleasure to listen to as I followed her tale.

Ms. Eisdorfer does a masterful jo
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I loved the protagonist - she was awesome!
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
The idea behind this book was new and interesting so for that I should have liked to have given it 5 stars. But there was way too much irreverent talk about how the women got pregnant (if you now what I mean). There was never anything sexy...just matter of fact statements. But too much for me to want to recommend to anyone.

The second half of the book was done with all the women getting pregnant and how...and the plot thickened and became very engrossing. I liked learning about how life may have
Jun 30, 2009 rated it liked it
a delightful jaunt into Victorian England's fascinating social classes, as told by a wet nurse.

Becomes a sort of adventure when she sets off to find her own child, and there's even a bit of the "gothic" feel to it. Creative, observant and fun main character. Basically it's "chick lit" for the historical fiction crowd.
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you Lacey for lending me this book; I really enjoyed it! It was funny and sad and very interesting and I really loved the main character. I even liked the little snippets between chapters that were told from the perspective of mothers who put their babies out to nurse and gave their reasons for doing so. I would highly recommend this book whether someone likes historical fiction or not; it's just a great read.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: at-home, not-my-cuppa
Abandoned. Just never could get into it. Don’t think it’s the boobs. Maybe all the babies...
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found the main character and wet nurse, Susan Rose, to be quite amusing. I enjoyed that the story came from the perspective of someone of the lower classes who had to "do for herself." I loved much of the humor in her thoughts, basically along the lines that rich people worry about crazy things that poor people don't have time to think about and that the rich make the messses and the poor have to clean them up. Susan is practical and does what she needs to do to survive. Her values are based o ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
The Wet Nurse's Tale is a plot driven historical fiction novel about Susan Rose, the witty, illiterate daughter of a wet nurse who works as a maid in the "Great House" in her village. Susan follows in her mother's footsteps and becomes a wet nurse herself after several pantry dalliances with the young son of her employers. The first part of the novel describes how Susan became a nurse and follows her from home to home as she nurses the babies of others at the expense of her own son Joey. The sec ...more
Colleen Turner
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this! It was refreshing to read a book with a character so open, real and raw that you cannot help but feel for her at every turn. When Susan Rose's heart bleeds yours does right along with her. And when she triumphs, no matter how small, you cheer for her every step of the way. She is not perfect, as none of us are, but she is caring, strong and tough as nails when it comes to those she loves dearly.

Susan Rose is a young, large woman working in the Great House of her town along
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written novel about a wet nurse in Victorian London. Susan Rose is young woman from a poor family who knows her own mind and is tough as nails. Sent to work in the great house near their village, Susan and her sisters toil away for the wealthy family, ever mindful of the customs and cultural restraints of the day, until Susan is approached by the awkward young Master of the house, and her life is forever changed in many ways.

This is really a novel about nursing. Interesting
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Wet Nurse's Tale is the story of young Susan Rose, who must find work as a wet nurse when her baby is taken from her. I t was very interesting and didn't take long to read the whole book. I liked how the story showed us how hard being a wet nurse could actually be , as well as all the joys each woman experienced holding and loving these precious babies. Back in the Victorian era there were so very many mothers who just didn't want to breast feed the child on their own but who insisted that i ...more
Priscilla Herrington
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Wet Nurse's Tale is a funny and captivating read that manages to convey an enormous amount of information about breastfeeding, wet nursing other women's babies - and the myriad reasons why a wet nurse might need to be employed - and life among both the lower and upper classes in Victorian England.

Erica Eisdorfer has created a heroine, Susan Rose, who is unforgettable. Her mother was a wet nurse, and it seems only natural that she take up that line of work following her first pregnancy. Her t
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to bookczuk by: plainjane8160
Nice to have another view of the Victorian era, especially told from the other side of the tracks. Susan Rose is a survivor. Her life hasn't exactly been a bed of roses, but she comes through as a rose should, soft and pink in the right places but with a steely thorn for protection. She's pragmatic, loving, and caring. When life bypassed her in the physical beauty department, it gave her a heart that could fill with love.

I've often wondered about the whole Wet Nurse profession. It made sense in
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women
Recommended to Jodi by: goodreads
I absolutely LOVED this book and couldn't put it down! I loved Susan's voice in the story and how she talked to the reader throughout the book. I also loved her pluck and kind-hearted manner throughout the story. For Victorian times she was rather loose but I think she felt more resigned to her position most of the times and did what she did because she felt she had little choice otherwise. I love how she turned her "bad luck" of getting pregnant into a career that offered her some freedom from ...more
Cynthia  Scott
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting and different point of view of life in 19th Century England. Women had few choices of occupation if they did not marry, or if they were widowed young with children to rear. One option that was often used was sharing the milk of their body with babies whose mothers couldn't, or chose not to, breast feed them. This is essentially is the story of one woman who became a wet nurse, as her mother had before her. The chapters are interspersed with the stories of the many reasons differ ...more
Ashley Lehman
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This story hooked me immediately. Susan, the narrator, is so likable, down - to - earth, and real. As a mother who nursed my children, the life of a wet nurse is fascinating to me. At times, it was so hard to read because I couldn't imagine having to do what Susan did - leaving my own child to nurse another's. It amazes me that that was a not uncommon way to support a family; whether you chose to or were forced to (like Susan was). For all the heartache and sadness, the story is not sad in the e ...more
Linda Barnhart
Oct 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a lactation consultant I was fascinated by this book. It is historical fiction with a bit of romance thrown in. There is also some very sad parts and a bit of raunchy parts....all very "british like". There was lot of sound breastfeeding information but she threw enough "old wives tales" in to make it believable.
The book is narrated by the main character but in between chapters tell stories of women who have given their babies to wet nurses and their reasons for doing so.
I don't think it wo
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Susan Rose is a wet nurse for wealthy Victorian clients. When she has a child, she must leave the baby and hire herself out to others. The child dies. When she has a second child, she vows not to let it happen again. However, her alcoholic father sells the child to somebody else and Susan Rose must find out where her baby is. Once she finds the child, she hires herself out to that family and must keep her child safe from a mad woman!
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a ripper of a read! It had me from the very first sentence, and when you're picking a book up to read in ad breaks whilst watching the telly, you know it must be good!
This is Susan Rose's tale of her life as a wet nurse and her character and voice could not be any richer. Narrated in conversational style, I could just imagine Susan's broad northern England accent telling me her tale in the friendliest voice. I loved this story and highly recommend it!
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
I don't think I would recommend this book to someone who hasn't nursed a baby or doesn't want to read about boobs on every page, but it's a gripping yarn. The narrator Susan Rose is quite charming and entertaining. If you like PBS period dramas and books like Sarah Waters' Fingersmith (and babies/boobs), then you'd probably enjoy this as well.
Sep 19, 2009 rated it liked it
This was a really engaging book, alternating the first person story of a Victorian wet nurse and short chapters from the point of view of people who hired wet nurses -- including a posthumous account from a woman who died in childbirth. It's steeped in careful personal and cultural detail (clearly the author did loads of research), but always stays pretty light.
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