ABOUT THE BOOK:
What if the only person you ever loved suddenly disappeared without a trace?
In 1789, Armande, a wet nurse who is known for the mystical qualities of her breast milk, goes missing from her mountain village.
Céleste, a cunning servant girl who Armande once saved from shame and starvation, sets out to find her. A snuffbox found in the snow, the unexpected arrival of a gentleman and the discovery of the wet nurse’s diary, deepen the mystery. Using Armande’s diary as a map to her secret past, Céleste fights to save her from those plotting to steal the wisdom of her milk.
Milk Fever is a rich and inspired tale set on the eve of the French Revolution–a delicious peek into this age’s history. The story explores the fight for women’s rights and the rise in clandestine literature laying bare sexuality, the nature of love and the magic of books to transform lives.
Why Book Covers are So Important
I pressed it with all the strength I could bring to bear. She said the
pages of books were made from cotton and linen rags stamped into
pulp, then pressed into paper and hung to dry. I laughed at her for
telling such a lie because I thought maybe she was just like my father
who told tall tales to make me behave. Rows and rows of lines she
called words looked odd to me. Many times I searched hard within
every letter, every sound to find meaning. The letters cut my tongue
as thorns on a rose bush, each one sticking to me. I could not speak
the next letter until the one before it came unstuck. Soon after the
word was finally spoken, my lazy tongue quit my mouth.
Months later, the wet nurse asked me to read a passage aloud.
The first line was, Bodies gliding on morning’s cloak of dew, lit up
as iridescent insect wings they flew. When I came to the word iridescent,
Armande said to say it slowly, one letter at a time. She told
me it was from the word iris for the flower, and escent for colours
of the rainbow that change as a dragonfly in the sun. Finally, when
my tongue began working with me and worrying less, she asked me
to say other words like deliquescent, effervescence, and florescence.
These newfound words were as rare gems dug up by the wet nurse
solely for me. She wrote them out with big stokes that filled a whole
page. I rubbed my eyes to make the words go away, yet they only
stayed there waiting for me to say them.
In the days and months that followed, I learned to read and write
well, and I learned first-hand about the miraculous effects of Armande’s
milk on babies. Before, I was a mere servant watching from afar as the
wet nurse suckled. Then I was part of her life, holding and changing
babies, burping them, and rocking them to sleep. Armande cared for
three babies during this period yet not all at once. She would also tend
to others from time to time, reassuring worried mothers in soothing
tones as gentle and sweet as the milk itself. First there was Jacques
who she still cared for. His mother died in childbirth and Armande
stepped up to nurse him without a thought about payment. Caroline
came after, then Héloïse. The first time I watched from up close as
Jacques drank her milk was in the drawing room.
Armande was on her favourite oak chair with the sagging blue leather
seat and worn arms while I sat on the sofa. Suddenly Jacques stopped sucking,
then gazed at me knowingly, his eyes full of light. In that instant, a slim ray
of sun gleamed through a crack, lighting up the darkness inside me.
My hands shook. Sweat ran down my cheeks and the back of my neck.
Just as she said her father sometimes described it, we were entering a new
age driven by light. And I, a peasant girl whose father and mother never
held a book, would be there to witness the change.