The Birth House Paperback – Deckle Edge, Mar 6 2007
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Dora Rare is the first girl in five generations born to the Rare family who live in a small Nova Scotia fishing village. Set in the years before World War I, this down-to-earth novel relates the life story of a most unusual woman. In her youth, Dora apprentices to Miss Babineau, an aged Acadian midwife known for her storytelling and herbal acumen. She is also considered something of a witch by those locals most desperate to embrace modernity. The arrival in the village of Dr. Gilbert Thomas, a doctor of obstetrics, sets up the major conflict of the novel as the haughty and presumptuous newcomer quickly denigrates the use of midwives by the local women. McKay has caught the voice of rural Nova Scotia with uncanny clarity ("A breech babys just waitin' on trouble") and adds period documents from local newspapers, including an advertisement for an early vibrator from Sweden. Altogether this is a richly satisfying novel filled with intriguing characters, both good and evil, as well as voluminous lore on birthing traditions, herbs and earthy wisdom. --Mark Frutkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Canadian radiojournalist McKay was unable to ferret out the life story of late midwife Rebecca Steele, who operated a Nova Scotia birthing center out of McKay's Bay of Fundy house in the early 20th century; the result of her unsatisfied curiousity is this debut novel. McKay writes in the voice of shipbuilder's daughter, Dora Rare, "the only daughter in five generations of Rares," who as a girl befriends the elderly and estranged Marie Babineau, long the local midwife (or traiteur), who claims to have marked Dora out from birth as her successor. After initial reluctance and increasingly intensive training, 17-year-old Dora moves in with Marie; on the eve of Dora's marriage to Archer Bigelow, Marie disappears, leaving Dora her practice. A difficult marriage, many difficult births, a patient's baby thrust on her to raise without warning and other crises (including WWI and the introduction of "clinical" birthing methods) ensue. Period advertisments, journal entries and letters to and from various characters give Dora's voice context. The book is more about the texture of Dora's life than plot, and McKay handles the proceedings with winning, unsentimental care. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Here's to tea with mitts!
A must read, can't put it down, page turner!!
For anyone who enjoyed Lori Lansen's Rush Home Road, The Birth House is guaranteed to please. A tender and thoughtful addition to the wealth of contemporary Canadian literature that we are so fortunate to have at our fingertips.
This novel is real and you can literally smell, feel, and taste the experiences. It's the story of Dora, a young girl, who trains under an Acadian woman that many believe to be a witch. When a "real" doctor shows up, i.e. Dr. Gilbert Thomas, the clash begins. He represents all that's new and scientific and Miss Babineau and Dora represent just the opposite. The story unfolds from there, with a lot of good writing and even some poetic passages.
The author obviously did a lot of research on this novel, and that also impressed me. This alone is probably the reason the experiences shown are so real and the characters' interactions touch the right nerves. For those looking for a great read, might I suggest this book, along with the novel "Middlesex" and the book "The Time Traveler's Wife."
If you have an interest in the tension between midwifery and the medicalization of birth, this would be a good book to read. Not only does it develop the constant struggle between the medical community vs. the common sense practice of the midwives, it also gives a strong feel for the people of east coast Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century. I give this book five stars because it captures the Canadian spirit of independence.
Most recent customer reviews
I adored this book! So feminist, so spiritual, so evocative! Read and share with women you love! Miss B is the fairy godmother we all need!Published 6 months ago by angela
Slow start with a lot going on. I really did start enjoying it a few chapters in.Published 6 months ago by Charlin Beaupre
Enjoyed the Maritime Stories of olden days. Great description of Scots Bay N.S.Published 18 months ago by J.C.P.E.I.
I love books that related to historical content this book was exciting to read and historical facts as well. Good read.Published on Feb. 5 2014 by Karen
this is a great read. i usually don't read books again but this one will be being read again. I got one for all of my sisters as well!Published on Dec 22 2013 by Megan Corkum
This book shows you a different way of life in a different time! I loved it. It was a little strange and very true at the same time. Read morePublished on Aug. 27 2013 by nicole fleming