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The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and…
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The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (original 2002; edition 2009)

by Jennifer Worth

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,111847,443 (4.11)1 / 198
Member:jcmontgomery
Title:The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
Authors:Jennifer Worth
Info:Penguin Books (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library, Read
Rating:****
Tags:Non-Fiction, Memoir

Work details

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth (2002)

  1. 10
    All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: These books have a similar nostalgic feel for a community and an era.
  2. 00
    White City by Donald James Wheal (bergs47)
  3. 00
    Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey by Patricia Harman (cransell)
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I was fascinated by this window into the lives of women in London's East End in the 1950s. It made me realize, once again, how much the lives of women have changed in the last 60 years. ( )
  Electablue | Apr 20, 2016 |
The Librarything app strikes again - my review has disappeared! Read for bookclub and loved it so much I went out and bought the next 2 in the series. Great characters, great setting and wonderful ( if at times heartbreaking events.)
Here is the Goodreads synopsis:
"Call the Midwife' is a most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history. It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife in the East End of London in the 1950's and is a graphic portrayal of the quite appalling conditions that the East Enders endured."
Older teenage readers would cope with the graphic descriptions of birth and also poverty. Read for bookclub. ( )
  nicsreads | Apr 16, 2016 |
fascinating read. I enjoyed the historical accuracy of post war 1950s Europe from the distinctly different perspective of a 20 something single woman. thru the stories of the women she met and cared for you get glimpses of the times thru many different angles. as you go and towards the end you realize you have also been seeing her personal story of faith working itself out. there was one scene described towards the end that I believe was unnecessarily brutal and descriptive, besides that I'm hooked and looking forward to the rest of the books in this series. ( )
  RebeccaWattier | Mar 22, 2016 |
Summary: In the 1950s, Jenny Lee arrives at St. Nonnatus House in the East End of London. She was trained as a nurse and was now to apprentice with the nuns of St. Nonnatus to learn midwifery. In post-war London, contraception was rare and unreliable, families were large, wages from jobs at the docks were low, and home births were common, so the midwives of Nonnatus House were a vital part of their community. Call the Midwife is a memoir of Nurse Lee's first few years at Nonnatus, and through her, we get to know the other inhabitants of Nonnatus House, from the sharp tongued Sister Evangelina to the aging and increasingly distracted Sister Monica Joan. We also get glimpses into the lives of the people of the East End, including a woman with twenty four children who spoke no English, a young Irish girl who ran away from a terrible situation at home only to find herself turned out as a prostitute, and an older woman who is still haunted by her time in the workhouse. Through them, Jenny learns the craft of midwifery, and finds kindness and cruelty, heartache and hope, and ultimately, compassion and faith.

Review: I had never heard of these books before I began watching the TV series on PBS. And I absolutely fell in love with the show - it reliably makes me cry both happy and sad tears, sometimes at the same time, and it's just warm and caring and full of people who care for and about each other, and I just find it absolutely delightful, even though midwifery is not something I would necessarily care about in and of itself. And while I will do my best to review the book separate of the TV show, the truth is that they're very much intertwined.

Many of the stories in this book have been used as episode plots in the show, sometimes with minor or not-so-minor changes, but pretty much all of the bones of this book were stories I was familiar with. This wasn't necessarily a hindrance - the book does present things in a somewhat different light than the show, with more detail and more contextual and historical information than can be presented in the television show. I also knew the main characters quite well before I started the book, so I can't really judge how well the book does in terms of characterization - it feels fabulous but that could just be because I already had them well pictured in my head. (The one exception is Chummy, who's one of my favorite parts of the show but appears in the book much less than I was expecting/hoping.)

I listened to the audiobook of this, which was great as well; Worth does her best to transcribe the Cockney dialect (the printed version has an appendix with a dialect and pronunciation guide!), but nothing beats hearing it out loud.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, as I rather suspected I would. The stories don't always connect to one another cleanly, and there are some places where I got the sense that Mrs. Worth was over-editorializing or romanticizing her life (not often, though; she's usually pretty straightforward about the bad parts along with the good.) But it's also interesting from a historical perspective as well as a personal one - the 1950s don't seem like all that long ago, and yet it was a very, very different world in many ways. But the human element of the story has remained remarkably similar, and that's the part I enjoyed most. This book just felt warm and welcoming and full of compassion and grace, which made for a lovely listening experience. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of the TV show will find much that's familiar (and therefore much that's enjoyable) about the book. Otherwise, it's an interesting piece of medical and social history that's told from a very humanizing perspective. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Feb 26, 2016 |
I would give the writing style of this book a 3 star, but I found the stories very interesting and unusual. There is a lot of "hard times" in it, but much goodness and joy as well. There is heroism as well as evil in what appears to have been everyday life among the poor. It struck me that this was at a time when I was about 4 years old. It was hard to see this as the same period of time that I was living in. I learned a lot from this book. ( )
  ajlewis2 | Feb 24, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jennifer Worthprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barber, NicolaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coates, TerryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cole, StephanieReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
This book is dedicated to Philip, my dear husband.
The history of 'Mary' is also dedicated to the memory of Father Joseph Williamson and Daphne Jones.
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Nonnatus House was situated in the heart of the London Docklands.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in postwar London's East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies...from the plucky warmhearted nuns with whom she lives, to the woman with twenty-four children, to the prostitutes and dockers of the city's seedier side..illuminate a fascinating time in history.
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Jennifer Worth was just twenty-two when she volunteered to spend her early years of midwifery training in London's East End in the 1950s. Coming from a sheltered background there were tough lessons to be learned. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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