Melissa's Reviews > The Wet Nurse's Tale

The Wet Nurse's Tale by Erica Eisdorfer
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's review
Mar 24, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read from March 24 to 25, 2010

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 on her own moral compass, rather than the religious and social morals of Victorian England. She decided that she would rather have male companionship than to be an old spinster who never experienced any joy. Instead of being shamed to be an unwed mother, she welcomed the baby as something to bring some joy into her life. Susan Rose is not a woman who follows anyone's whims but her own. The author paints social problems (female servants expected to submit to the master of the house, Susan being beaten by her father, etc.) in a way that just made them matter-of-fact, the dangers of the times. Which, for someone of her class, was a part of everyday life. I liked the realism contained in the book, even if I didn't like some of the acts. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and zoomed through it in one day!

I learned a little piece of history that I had not known before. I had always thought wet nurses nursed babies who mothers could not produce milk, were sick with childbirth fever or whose mothers had died. I found through my reading that some were farm wives who were needed to help with the harvets and some were wives of merchants who helped run the store. Wet nurses also nursed the babies of high society women who found nursing their own babies to be "unfashionable" because it would keep the wife tied to the baby and unable to attend parties, balls, dinners, etc. I had previously assumed that the aversion to breastfeeding had started in the US, in the early 1900's, with the invention of baby formula. But, apparently it started in Victorian England with the upper crust. Or maybe even before that? I don't know but think it is an interesting subject.
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