The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
Published September 1 2012 Orion
I love reading about social history and this book did not disappoint. Set in and around the tenements of Lower Manhattan, New York in the 1870s, it tells the story of twelve year old Moth.
Abandoned by her father, Moth and her mother fight to survive amongst poverty and squalor. The day comes when Moth's fortune-telling mother has nothing left to sell, so she sells her daughter into service for the Wentworth family.
Mrs. Wentworth is cruel and vicious; it is not long before Moth must escape, but to what? Poor Moth finds herself at a brothel - Miss Everett's Infant School, where select girls are taught how to please a gentleman. This 'education' could very well be the lowest level of Moth's downward spiral however, Moth has independence in her sights, a lot to gain and nothing to lose.
The characters and settings in this book are richly detailed. I particularly enjoyed Doctor Sadie's asides hidden amongst the pages.
***The Virgin Cure was believed at the time to be the way a man can cure syphilis - a disease rife at the time.***