Jane’s Cure is an absorbing historical novel about midwifery and women’s autonomy—or lack of it—set in coastal New Brunswick in the mid-19th century.
Jane Angier is in jail. She’s a young midwife, accused of helping women end their pregnancies. The narrative alternates between Jane awaiting trial and the events that brought her to this point.
Two years earlier, Jane, the daughter of a trapper, arrives in Queen’s Bay, New Brunswick with her parents and young sister, but tragedy strikes in the form of typhus, and Jane finds herself alone. With few options before her, Jane helps midwife and healer Biddy tend to the sick, and agrees to take over Biddy’s role as the older woman’s health quickly declines. As Jane helps the women of Queen’s Bay her enemies grow in number, and readers will turn the pages anxiously to discover her fate.
Jane is a strong main character, unapologetically at odds with her times in terms of her attitudes to marriage, religion, and women’s reproductive choices, and author D.K. Kennedy brings the historical world of Queen’s Bay to life expertly, interweaving medical, social, and political commentary seamlessly with an engaging character-driven plot. Secondary characters are well-drawn, particularly Jane’s jailor, Harold; the local doctor, Clawson, and Clawson’s wife Kathryn. The relationship between Jane and Kathryn is sensitively portrayed, as are issues of abuse and sexual assault.
Initially, sections set in the jail are in present tense, but over time the jail sequences devolve into past tense. Also, readers may experience some confusion about what charge Jane faces at her trial, and the novel’s denouement feels slightly rushed. Still, this is an excellent read.
Overall, Jane’s Cure is an immersive, well-crafted historical story that will resonate with a modern audience.
Also available as an ebook.