This book brought out a lot of emotions for me. It is not a leisurely read. The book is set in 19th century Sunderland, England during the first cholera pandemic. Gustine is a teenager of 15 who has been forced into two worlds that even adults have no place. During the day she works 12 hours in a clay factory and at night as a lady of the night.
Her job at night is dictated by her landlord/pimp. He lives his life completely as a Machiavellian. Using Gustine in his scheme to have a prostitute work while wearing an upper class dress. Although the dress is on the edge of being outdated in the upper class realm.
Gustine rents a small space on the floor on the second floor. This space is shared with several other renters. There is no light as all the window are boarded up so the landlord wont have to pay the windwo Renter sleep on the bare floor, but can have a bit of straw for a bit of extra rent. The renters live in pure filth.
Gustine needs medical attention for her very ill son so she gets into a type of partnership with a doctor who runs a small medical school and needs corpses for experiments. She finds him the corpses in exchange she is hopeful he will save her son.
This book has such depth. Many of the characters are allegorical and have no human name. The Eye has to watch Gustine at all times while she is wearing the dress so she doesnt steal it and that she is using it to up her opportunities attracting men of money. She then watches the dress during the day and makes any repairs from the night before while Gustine is at her day job.
The layers of this book include poverty verses wealth, class structure, ignorance, illness, science versus humanity.
I encourage anyone who wants to challenge how they see others to read this book and see if they gain any new insightes.
Sheri Holman skillfully uses her considerable talent to expose the ugly face of grinding poverty. A cholera epidemic is spreading rapidly in 18th Century England, the first of many such plagues. Preying primarily on the poor, the authorities are unable to isolate the cause. A central and most poignant character is Gustine, a potter's apprentice by day and a "Dress Lodger" by night. A Dress Lodger is a young woman hired by a slum landlord, chosen from his boarding house patrons, … more
If you wanted to be a surgeon in the early part of the 19th century, how would you receive training in anatomy? That's the crux of this very well-written, historical novel. The author paints what appears to be an accurate poicture of time and place, and her characters are well-drawn, even the minor ones. This is a somewhat sorrowful story, but a chilling cautionary tale that reveals how advances in medical science came about in times when class warfare and suspicion were the rule, rather than the … more