Posted by: Kate | September 27, 2015

Book Review: The Virgin Cure

When I read Ami Mckay‘s The Birth House, I knew the voice of this author intrigued me. So I purchased her book The Virgin Cure for my Kobo.

The story takes place in Manhattan in the late 1800s. It is a story of a girl living a desperate life, and the people she interacts with along the way. Part social commentary, part personal history, the story manages to draw the reader in even as the reader is  saddened and turned off by the incidents portrayed.

“I am Moth, a girl from the west part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart.”

The development of the character is slow and steady, happening as Moth discovers how to cope with both where she came from and where she wants to go. Add in the colour and mayhem of Manhattan in the 1800s, with a woman doctor fighting for the rights of used girls, a freak show and some madams thrown in, and the story takes you on a seedy yet ultimately uplifting story.

It all comes back to Moth and her journey, told both through her eyes and through the eyes of a woman doctor who befriends her. Having the two points of view is intriguing, as one can see that growth happens for both of the characters, as they interact.

Ami McKay’s writing, in both the books I have read, is filled with a quiet certainty and weight. She takes care with her words and shapes her sentences in a way that creates natural pauses for contemplation as one is reading. Her turns of phrase are haunting at times, poignant and vibrant and very visual.

“‘Yes Ma’am,’ I said, stacking yet another lie, neat and close to the rest, like sticks bundled for burning.”

There was only one down side to this book, and that was that I read it on the Kobo. This was the first time I have wished I had the paper book in hand, and it was at times frustrating. Throughout the book there are newspaper clippings which weave stories from 1800s Manhattan into the narrative of the novel. However on the ereader these clippings were too narrow and small to read easily and so they interrupted the story for me. My guess is that in the paper book this would not have been the case. A small detail, but with a novel like this I think an important one.

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