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 young woman with no formal education but a deal of common sense, optimism, and sheer grit. Her story begins slowly enough, but by the halfway point, the suspense kicks in and makes it un-put down-able. Susan Rose is a most unconventional heroine, but heroine she most definitely is.
Interspersed with Susan’s tale are brief vignettes narrated by the mothers of her many charges, explaining just how it came to pass that they were in need of her vital services. Now the reader sees both sides of the situation, which by contemporary standards is a rather peculiar one.
The author tempers what could be a bleak topic (racism, classism, and sexism) with touches of humor and joy. Upstairs, downstairs, and all around the town – it’s all here in The Wet Nurse’s Tale.