A Five Star Pick
What can be more intriguing than the relationship between a fifteen-year-old prostitute and a surgical doctor practicing illegally on stolen bodies from the grave? There is more to this book, of course, but these two things add to the 19th century London back-drop of the story. I read this novel quite some time ago, but I remember how much I loved it. As always, the time period called to me and the writing grabbed me. The way Gustine and Dr. Henry Chiver rely on each other for their own reasons is interesting to see. While Gustine is a prostitute by night, she is a potter’s assistant by day. She also borrows a blue dress to help her attract clients from a higher class, bringing more money in. One distraction is that the owner of the blue dress hires an old woman to follow Gustine’s every move. Being a courtesan is the only way she can afford to pay the high costs for the daily special needs of her fragile son. Her baby is born with an anatomical defect, which she understands the surgeon can treat. Eventually, she decides to seek the physician’s help. In the meantime, Dr. Chiver has his own demons to battle with when it comes to the morality of working on cadavers in the name of science. Added pressure comes from his wife who vehemently objects to this practice. There are internal conflicts and external suffering, as we are taken to the streets of poverty and a cholera outbreak. If you like historical fiction, this is a good one.