The Physician’s Daughter by Martha Conway

Today it’s over to Mandie who is sharing her thought on The Physician’s Daughter by Martha Conway as part of the tour. Thanks to publisher Zaffre for the advance copy for review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the tour invite. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release date: 03 March 2022
Publisher: Zaffre

About the Book

In a world made for men, can one woman break free from tradition and walk a new path?

It is 1865, the American Civil War has just ended, and 18-year old Vita Tenney is determined to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a country doctor like her father. But when her father tells her she must get married instead, Vita explores every means of escape – and finds one in the person of war veteran Jacob Culhane. Damaged by what he’s seen in battle and with all his family gone, Jacob is seeking investors for a fledgling business. Then he meets Vita – and together they hatch a plan that should satisfy both their desires.

Months later, Vita seemingly has everything she ever wanted. But alone in a big city and haunted by the mistakes of her past, she wonders if the life she always thought she wanted was too good to be true. When love starts to compete with ambition, what will come out on top?

From the author of The Floating Theatre, The Physician’s Daughter is the story of two people trying to make their way in a world that is struggling to escape its past.

Mandie’s Thoughts

At the end of the Civil War Vita Tenney is determined to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor however she is going to find this hard. Not only is her father determined to marry her off to anyone who will have her, but she is living in a time where no college of medicine is accepting female students. When she meets Jacob Culhane she finds someone who is willing to help her achieve her goals whilst also getting her father off her back.

Vita is an intriguing character. She is not the typical female of the time, happy to get married and have children and spend her time doing charitable things. She is smart and wants to make a difference. Encouraged at an early age to study with her brother, she develops an interest in medicine and science and wants to follow in her father’s footsteps. She knows this is not going to be easy, especially as her father shows the attitudes of the time and absolutely refuses to assist her in her quest.

After her marriage when her future appears threatened she goes out on her own and secures a place training with a doctor that knew her brother. It is only then that we actually see the doubts in her ability creep in as she is faced with the practicalities of her chosen profession. She knows the texts inside out but putting it in to practice really is a different matter. When circumstances put her in the middle of an accident, we really see what she is made of. Her friendships with her family maid Gemma and the son of the woman she lodges with give some of the lighter moments within the book especially when Vita and Gemma are discussing ways to avoid pregnancy.

Jacob is haunted by his experiences in the war and the prison camp that followed and through some chapters we see exactly what he was put through during this time where he lost his closest friends. It is only when he meets Vita that some of his nightmares subside, and he sees her as a way to achieve his own goals in the changing world. Although he says that he wants to support Vita there are times that his actions and words do not show this and like Vita you can’t be sure if this is how he really feels or if he is keeping up a pretence dependant upon the company they are in at the time.

The Physician’s Daughter has a slow-paced start whilst we are getting to know the characters and the period of time it is set in but as you get further in you find you get more invested in the lives of Vita and Jacob and the things they have to overcome in order to make their way in the changing landscape. This is a book that highlights the way that women and their roles were perceived, the fights for change without becoming either preachy or sentimental and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

About the Author

Martha Conway has been nominated for an Edgar Award and won the North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She now lives in San Francisco with her family.

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