The Invincible Miss Cust: A Novel (Paperback)

The Invincible Miss Cust: A Novel By Penny Haw Cover Image

The Invincible Miss Cust: A Novel (Paperback)

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SheReads Best Historical Fiction of 2022 Finalist!

"Inspiring, heartwarming, and ultimately triumphant." —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Friends

"What a remarkable woman—and what an enthralling story!" —Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

Must-read historical fiction for fans of Marie Benedict and Tracey Enerson Wood, based on the real life of Britain's first woman veterinary surgeon.

Aleen Cust has big dreams. And no one—not her family, society, or the law—will stop her.

Born in Ireland in 1868 to an aristocratic English family, Aleen knows she is destined to work with animals, even if her family is appalled by the idea of a woman pursuing a veterinary career. Going against their wishes but with the encouragement of the guardian assigned to her upon her father's death, Aleen attends the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, enrolling as A. I. Custance to spare her family the humiliation they fear. At last, she is on her way to becoming a veterinary surgeon! Little does she know her biggest obstacles lie ahead.

The Invincible Miss Cust is based on the real life of Aleen Isabel Cust, who defied her family and society to become Britain and Ireland's first woman veterinary surgeon. Through Penny Haw's meticulous research, riveting storytelling, and elegant prose, Aleen's story of ambition, determination, family, friendship, and passion comes to life. It is a story that, even today, women will recognize, of battling patriarchy and an unequal society to realize one's dreams and pave the way for other women in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

More Praise for The Invincible Miss Cust:

"The Invincible Miss Cust is an absolute delight, an exceptional, immersive work of historical fiction set amid the beautifully detailed landscapes of Ireland and England." —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Switchboard Soldiers

"A skillfully told story of an extraordinary woman's grit, determination, and devotion to her dream. Detailed and evocative, The Invincible Miss Cust is an engrossing read." —Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Mrs. Astor

"I loved this gripping and inspirational book! Her courage and independence of spirit shine through on every beautifully-written page as she faces life's triumphs and tragedies." —Fiona Valpy, bestselling author of The Dressmaker's Gift

"An amazing story! Haw's descriptive prose and deft characterizations lead us through Cust's remarkable life, setbacks and triumphs, and leaves us in awe of her perseverance, determination, and loyalty." —Katherine Reay, bestselling author of The London House and The Printed Letter Bookshop

Penny Haw worked as a journalist and columnist for more than three decades, writing for many leading South African newspapers and magazines before yielding to a lifelong yearning to create fiction. Her stories feature remarkable women, illustrate her love for nature, and explore the interconnectedness of all living things. The Invincible Miss Cust is Penny’s debut historical fiction. She lives near Cape Town with her husband and three dogs, all of whom are well-walked.


Product Details ISBN: 9781728257709
ISBN-10: 1728257700
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: October 4th, 2022
Pages: 320
Language: English

SheReads Best Historical Fiction of 2022 Finalist!



"Haw's debut historical novel is carefully researched, with well-rounded characters. Told through Aleen's perspective, it captures the courage and the doubt she had to juggle through much of her life. Her story will appeal...to any reader who loves animals and the people who care for them." — Booklist

"A skillfully told story of an extraordinary woman’s grit, determination, and devotion to her dream of becoming Great Britain’s first female veterinary surgeon. Haw brings Aleen Cust to vivid life, from her aristocratic but stifled childhood to her difficult days at school, to her eventual acceptance as a highly skilled vet—all the while fighting a patriarchal system designed to thwart her every step. Detailed and evocative, The Invincible Miss Cust is an engrossing read." — Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Mrs. Astor

"I loved The Invincible Miss Cust. The book is an important reminder of how hard women have had to fight for the right to work and study. From Ireland to France, I enjoyed every moment of Aleen Cust’s unpredictable journey. What a remarkable woman—and what an enthralling story!" — Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

"The Invincible Miss Cust is an absolute delight, an exceptional, immersive work of historical fiction set amid the beautifully detailed landscapes of Ireland and England. Readers are sure to adore and admire Aleen Cust for her compassion for animals as well as her courage as they follow the unpredictable twists and turns of her enthralling story." — Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Switchboard Soldiers

"A skillfully told story of an extraordinary woman’s grit, determination, and devotion to her dream of becoming Great Britain’s first female veterinary surgeon. Haw brings Aleen Cust to vivid life, from her aristocratic but stifled childhood to her difficult days at school, to her eventual acceptance as a highly skilled vet—all the while fighting a patriarchal system designed to thwart her every step. Detailed and evocative, The Invincible Miss Cust is an engrossing read." — Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Mrs. Astor

"A vivid, compelling story of a daring and determined woman. Emotionally rich and bringing light to an incredible life and legacy, you won’t want to miss this inspiring novel of England’s first female veterinary surgeon." — Audrey Blake, USA Today bestselling author of The Girl in His Shadow

"A gripping story of one woman’s unrelenting quest to treat and care for our four-legged friends. Readers will be rooting for Aleen as she comes up against and triumphs over a mountain of obstacles. A must-read for all animal lovers." — Renée Rosen, USA Today bestselling author of The Social Graces

"Penny Haw takes us deep into the heart and choices of Aleen Cust, who defied convention to become Britain’s first woman veterinary surgeon. A vivid, beautifully written, and compelling novel." — Louisa Treger, author of Madwoman and The Dragon Lady

"Penny Haw takes us deep into the heart and choices of Aleen Cust, who defied convention to become Britain’s first woman veterinary surgeon. A vivid, beautifully written, and compelling novel." — Louisa Treger, author of Madwoman and The Dragon Lady

"An amazing story! The Invincible Miss Cust introduces readers to Aleen Cust, Britain and Ireland’s first female veterinary surgeon, and we are better for the acquaintance. Haw’s descriptive prose and deft characterizations lead us through Cust’s remarkable life, setbacks and triumphs, and leaves us in awe of her perseverance, determination, and loyalty." — Katherine Reay, bestselling author of The London House and The Printed Letter Bookshop

"Haw’s crisp prose, engaging narrative, and thoughtful storytelling (not to mention her clear love of animals,) seamlessly blends fact and fiction to immerse the reader in the innermost world of the fiercely independent and indomitable Aleen Cust. This work of historical fiction is a powerful portrait of an inspiring woman whose stubborn determination and passion for her calling drove her to defy her family’s wishes, stand up to the sexist norms of society, and take the reins of her own life no matter the cost. Bravo!" — Samantha Greene Woodruff, author of The Lobotomist’s Wife

"The Invincible Miss Cust is the gripping true story of a young woman who dreams of becoming a veterinary surgeon. Aleen Cust is a determined free spirit whose love for animals surpasses the challenges and hardships faced by a woman pursuing a profession in the 1890's, a time when women were rarely allowed to dream of an education or a career. Readers of James Herriot will find this a delightful, inspiring read" — Julia Bryan Thomas, author of For Those Who Are Lost

"I loved this gripping and inspirational book! Aleen Cust’s...courage and independence of spirit shine through on every beautifully-written page as she faces life’s triumphs and tragedies." — Fiona Valpy, bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift