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January 05, 2014

Book Review - The Virgin Cure by Ani McKay

Set in New York in the 1870s, the author set out to write a novel that would memorialize her ancestor, a woman doctor who worked among the poor of New York at that time. When she came to write it however, the strongest voice belonged to the character of Moth, a poor girl who is sold to a brothel at age 12 to be schooled in the ways of elegant prostitution. Poor girls would probably lose their virginity sooner or later and the best they could do was choose the circumstances. It was also a time when men could buy guides to all the houses of pleasure and it was erroneously believed by many that having sex with a virgin could cure you of syphilis. That said, it doesn't really have much to do with Moth's story and the title is rather more PR than reflective of the book's contents. The narrative is well researched, however, we spend an awful lot of time getting ready and learning how to walk and talk. It is really almost a boarding school novel except for the last small part. The searing poverty is everpresent and the lady doctor's ethical dilemmas are well explained but I'm not sure that the topic has been given justice in this novel. Wendy


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