A compelling novel of female perseverance and the role of women in society set in the aftermath of the American Civil War. For readers of Tracey Chevalier and The Second Mrs Thistlewood
It is 1865, the American Civil War has just ended, and 18-year old Vita Tenney is determined to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a country doctor like her father. But when her father tells her she must get married instead, Vita explores every means of escape – and finds one in the person of war veteran Jacob Culhane. Damaged by what he’s seen in battle and with all his family gone, Jacob is seeking investors for a fledgling business. Then he meets Vita – and together they hatch a plan that should satisfy both their desires.Months later, Vita seemingly has everything she ever wanted. But alone in a big city and haunted by the mistakes of her past, she wonders if the life she always thought she wanted was too good to be true. When love starts to compete with ambition, what will come out on top?
From the author of The Floating Theatre, The Physician’s Daughter is the story of two people trying to make their way in a world that is struggling to escape its past.
Martha Conway has been nominated for an Edgar Award and won the North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She now lives in San Francisco with her family.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book, Vita was so determined and brave, striking out on her own – thinking that that was the only way to get to be a doctor. Jacob was equally determined to find her and support her – he didn’t want to hold her back or force her to be someone she wasn’t. I felt sorry for Mitty, her life wasn’t what she’d invisioned and it was only by following Vita’s example in the end that she got to use her brain again and engage with learning.
Women were so stifled, and banned from doing so much, the incredibly limited medical schools who would take female trainees, and even then only a handful. I know it was the same case here too – this ridiculous idea that women, who deal with blood and bodily fluids all the time (especially if they have children) would faint and be too delicate is absurd. Even now fewer women attend medical school – put off by the patriarchal medical establishment, told they’d be better off elsewhere. The old boys network has a lot to answer for. But reading this book, hearing Vita’s voice reminds me of all the incredibly brave, pioneering women who struck out and stuck up for themselves and forced society (and men) to see them as equals.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.