“My head and heart informed me that mothering wasn’t contrary to learning, yet instead part of it. I can write and reflect and talk philosophy just as I can suckle a child. No one can tell me . . . that it is not a woman’s privilege to do both,” writes Armande Vivant in a diary entry in 1784 in Lissa M. Cowan’s debut novel, Milk Fever.
I was intrigued by the premise of Milk Fever, partly because I was reminded of Jane Austen’s famous breastfeeding metaphor (with its echo of the biblical passage from the book of Isaiah). “I can no more forget [Sense and Sensibility], than a mother can forget her sucking child,” Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra when she was reading the proofs for her first novel (25 April 1811). Early in Milk Fever, Armande’s friend Celeste realizes that “books were a kind of food, and that reading was what made Armande’s milk different.” I reviewed the novel for Publishers Weekly:
On the eve of the French Revolution, a well-educated wet nurse named Armande Vivant disappears, and the peasant girl she and her father adopted and educated resolves to find her because she believes Armande’s ‘extraordinary’ milk has the power not only to nourish babies, but also to educate and transform the people of France . . . .
Read the rest of the review here.