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The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

The Midwife of Venice (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Roberta Rich

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5154029,491 (3.44)30
Title:The Midwife of Venice
Authors:Roberta Rich
Info:Gallery Books (2012), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:To read

Work details

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich (2011)

  1. 10
    The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato (tesskrose)
  2. 00
    The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato (tesskrose)
  3. 00
    The Birth House by Ami McKay (gypsysmom)
    gypsysmom: Although a completely different setting and time period this book also deals with "women's issues" at a time when women had little control over their futures.

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» See also 30 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
I couldn't stop reading. I really couldn't. This is the kind of consumable story that holds ones attention really easily. The story moves steadily, evening nail-bitingly, quick enough to capture and hold the reader for the full length of the novel.

However, while I loved the story, I found the writing itself to be somewhat lacking. Too simple perhaps. Almost childish, by nature. If it weren't for the graphic details of birth and the openness about sex that we see in both Hannah and Isaac's stream of consciousness, I would be recommending this book to any 8 year old kid. I think the happy ending may have contributed to this. It's not that I don't like happy endings... but this one seemed just a little too perfect.

But, that engaging story made up for what was lacking in writing, and even the ending. This is an easy, quick read, that really does seem to transport you to the Venice and Malta of the past.

(Thanks to Randomhouse for sending me a copy of the book!) ( )
  Wordbrarian | Mar 5, 2019 |
I purchased the book as a gift for a friend after the seller's recommendation. The book was so curious to me that I had to buy one copy for me as well. I waited for my friend to read and respond but in the meantime, While my friend was leat to arrive, I decided to dare and read it without her.

I finished it a day and a half later. Although it is not a masterpiece and is filled with half-truths and historical inaccuracies, the plot is fascinating and combines landscape, architecture, sounds, smells and life experiences of that period, 1575.

The novel made me go back to find the sources, to refresh and shake the dust from the shelves of memory, about the Middle Ages. I also had to search the sources for the sites in question. Places and sites aside from the name "Venice"; after a few years, I must refresh my memory about the appearance of spots on the globe.

From reading the first chapter you enter the atmosphere, and the tension begins; Hannah the midwife, a daring and talented woman who lived in the ghetto of Nuevo (the new ghetto) in Venice in 1575. Her name was known all over Venice, although she treated only Jewish women.

The Count arrives with his brother accompanied by the rabbi to her stinking apartment. Begging and asking that she will come to see his wife, Lucia after she was already weak, sick, suffering for about two days with labor and the midwife, was unable to "persuade" the baby to leave. Besides, there is a directive from the Pope forbidding Christians to use Jewish medical services. The rabbi forbids her to accede to the count's request, for fear that if the baby or mother dies, every man, woman, and child in the ghetto will pay the price, not just Hannah.

Hannah, whose husband Isaac was captured as a slave by the Knights of Malta, decides to save her husband.

The book is replete with dialogues of egalitarianism and humanity, combining the history and the life of the time. The Black Plague, the Inquisition, the Order of Enlightenment, pirates, trade, moneylenders, love, murder, slavery. There are also turns in the plot, so tension is maintained throughout the book.

Stress and pleasure guaranteed.
Warmly recommended. ( )
  mazalbracha | Jan 12, 2019 |
This is a fabulous first novel. I'm very picky when it comes to birth-related details and Roberta Rich didn't hit a wrong note. Gripping, touching, and at times nerve-wracking. If you like historical fiction you'll love this. ( )
  JMLandels | Jan 11, 2019 |
I enjoyed this book. I thought it was well-written and engaging.

At times, I was anxious to get through Isaac's chapters because I was less interested in his story than his wife's. But it wasn't too bad.

The idea of "birthing spoons" did seem a little far-fetched to me. I would think it would do damage to the babies. Then again, I'm no midwife. What do I know? ( )
  danaenicole | May 6, 2017 |
I enjoyed this book and it was a quick read. I was drawn into Hannah's moral dilemma from the start and I couldn't stop reading to see what was going to happen next. The descriptions of Venice were vivid and I think the book was well researched for the time period. It was believable and I love tales told from from a woman's perspective. If you want a well written light historical novel, this would fit the bill.
  bcrowl399 | Aug 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
In her debut novel, Roberta Rich introduces a unique heroine, and her wry humour leavens a serious subject. Not wholly an intense social drama or an over-the-top adventure, The Midwife of Venice is a quirky yet diverting blend of both...For those looking for a meaty historical novel that leaves no loose ends, this may not be the best book to choose. But if you might like seeing Jewish folklore and Mediterranean history wrapped into a rousing story, suspend your disbelief for a time and follow along with Hannah and Isaac as they fight their way back to one another.


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Roberta Richprimary authorall editionscalculated
Vries, Dorienke deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Mimi Mechan 1920-2007
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At midnight, the dogs, cats, and rats rule Venice.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Not since The Red Tent or People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimatelyt into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. Hannah Levi is renowned for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret "birthing spoons." When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but his payment is enough to ransom her husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can she refuse her duty to a woman who is suffering? Hannah's choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the child and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, beleiving her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life. Told with exceptional skill, The Midwife of Venice brings to life a time and a place cloaked in fascination and mystery and introduces a captivating new talent in historical fiction. (ARC)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385668279, Paperback)

At midnight, the dogs, cats, and rats rule Venice. The Ponte di Ghetto Nuovo, the bridge that leads to the ghetto, trembles under the weight of sacks of rotting vegetables, rancid fat, and vermin. Shapeless matter, perhaps animal, floats to the surface of Rio di San Girolamo and hovers on its greasy waters. Through the mist rising from the canal the cries and grunts of foraging pigs echo. Seeping refuse on the streets renders the pavement slick and the walking treacherous. 

It was on such a night that the men came for Hannah.

Hannah Levi is known throughout sixteenth-century Venice for her skill in midwifery. When a Christian count appears at Hannah's door in the Jewish ghetto imploring her to attend his labouring wife, who is nearing death, Hannah is forced to make a dangerous decision. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it's also punishable by torture and death. Moreover, as her Rabbi angrily points out, if the mother or child should die, the entire ghetto population will be in peril.

But Hannah’s compassion for another woman’s misery overrides her concern for self-preservation. The Rabbi once forced her to withhold care from her shunned sister, Jessica, with terrible consequences. Hannah cannot turn away from a labouring woman again. Moreover, she cannot turn down the enormous fee offered by the Conte. Despite the Rabbi’s protests, she knows that this money can release her husband, Isaac, a merchant who was recently taken captive on Malta as a slave. There is nothing Hannah wants more than to see the handsome face of the loving man who married her despite her lack of dowry, and who continues to love her despite her barrenness. She must save Isaac.

Meanwhile, far away in Malta, Isaac is worried about Hannah’s safety, having heard tales of the terrifying plague ravaging Venice. But his own life is in terrible danger. He is auctioned as a slave to the head of the local convent, Sister Assunta, who is bent on converting him to Christianity. When he won’t give up his faith, he’s traded to the brutish lout Joseph, who is renowned for working his slaves to death. Isaac soon learns that Joseph is heartsick over a local beauty who won’t give him the time of day. Isaac uses his gifts of literacy and a poetic imagination—not to mention long-pent-up desire—to earn his day-to-day survival by penning love letters on behalf of his captor and a paying illiterate public.

Back in Venice, Hannah packs her “"birthing spoons”—secret rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births—and sets off with the Conte and his treacherous brother. Can she save the mother? Can she save the baby, on whose tiny shoulders the Conte’s legacy rests? And can she also save herself, and Isaac, and their own hopes for a future, without endangering the lives of everyone in the ghetto?

The Midwife of Venice is a gripping historical page-turner, enthralling readers with its suspenseful action and vivid depiction of life in sixteenth-century Venice. Roberta Rich has created a wonderful heroine in Hannah Levi, a lioness who will fight for the survival of the man she loves, and the women and babies she is duty-bound to protect, carrying with her the best of humanity’s compassion and courage.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers--a gift aided by the secret "birthing spoons" she designed. But when a count implores her to attend to his wife, who has been laboring for days to give birth to their firstborn son, Hannah is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical tratment to Christians, but the payment he offers is enough to ransom her beloved husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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