A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York. Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?
If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.
With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?
Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.
- Pub. Date: February 2011
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
The Elliott Review:
This book really surprised me in that the name somehow led me to believe that it would be about something supernatural. However, when I realized I had a high-quality work of historical fiction on my hands, I was very pleased. It traces the actions of the group of people tasked with tracing the sources of an outbreak as seen through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old girl coming into her own (and writing about it in her diary). The details and language of the 1900s were so well-done that at times I forgot that this was not an actual account.
Prudence's characterization was amazing to me. The phrases she uses are authentic to that time period, and her emotions are realistic yet very unique to her personality. Since she is interested in science and how things work, she stands as a different sort of heroine. Her goal is to become a master of logic and to make decisions free from the influence of her emotions. Due to the fact that she is a young woman, not being able to attain that lofty ideal is a source of major frustrations for her.
One area that she cannot control her emotions is in regards to her employer, Dr. Soper. She wants to be able to have a totally professional working relationship with him, to not notice the attractive and admirable qualities he possesses, but she cannot do this. I love how this serves to make her a real character.
There are many complex elements combined in this story that make it one solidly entertaining read. I was a little disappointed by the ending, but in view of literary merit, I think it actually adds to the story. The story can't help that I'm an adolescent girl at heart.
Source: Thanks to 1 ARC Tours for hosting this tour.