Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Virgin Cure

Finished December 4
The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
I loved this book! It is interesting how McKay can take a tiny bit of history and create a novel. In this case, she had been fascinated since she was a child of a photo of her great-great-grandmother, a doctor. When she began research to find out about this woman, she discovered the lower New York of the late 1800s. This novel is the story that came out of it.
Following a young girl, Moth, from the tenements, through a stint as an abused servant and into a brothel, McKay makes this world come alive. We see the abject poverty, the hope and despair, and the wiles and ruses used to gain a better life. The title, of course, comes from the myth of the time that sexual relations with a virgin could cure venereal disease, a myth that still exists around AIDS in many parts of the world today."Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".
The character of Moth fascinates. She is naive, yet street smart in many ways. She longs for love and luxury, but doesn't understand the costs she is being asked to pay. The role of Dr. Sadie, McKay's ancestor is one of goodwill and good deeds in the face of overwhelming poverty and social ills. This is also a circumstance that can be compared to the growing gulf between rich and poor today. The circumstances here are ones that are real in many parts of today's world. This is a sad tale, but also one of hope.

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