I really, really enjoyed reading this book. It is a charming little book compiled of a series of Worth's tales from London's Post war East End community. It makes you appreciate the work these ladies put into the community and it's woman. I loved how this book could make you smile with the tales of friendship and new life, yet would break your heart at tragic loss. But one of the most powerful theme I found in this book was a mother's will to do anything and everything to care for her children in even the most desperate of circumstances. The nuns and midwives of Nonnatus house work with compassion and skill to serve their community to help the mum's of London's slum to care for these infants and bring the new little ones into the world. This is a book that I would without a doubt recommend
I am in love with this book. Fun to read, humorous, fascinating, full of history of London, medicine and nursing.I have worked in maternity in hospitals in the past and now I work as a home care nurse, the equivalent of district nurses, we dont do home births but visit homes for wound care and palliative care some of which are in very similar conditions nurse Lee describes. I watched the TV series and really enjoyed it but the book brought to life the situations and the characters and filled in the story much better than the show did. I think the casting of the show was perfect though. You dont have to be a nurse to enjoy this book.
Call The Midwife A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
By Jennifer Worth
"Whoever heard of a midwife as a literary heroine? Yet midwifery is the very stuff of drama. Every child is conceived either in love or lust, is born in pain, followed by joy or sometimes remorse. A Midwife is in the thick of it, she sees it all."
So begins author Worth's memoir and boy is it a fascinating read. This is the first book in the trilogy, which has sold over a million copies in the UK alone. The setting is early 1950's East End of London among the poorest of the poor. This was the land of tenement housing and crime ran as high as the tide that slapped the docks where the majority of the men living in the area worked.
Though Worth was a trained RN, nothing could have prepared her for the work she stepped into alongside the nuns of St Raymund Nonnatus. Through language filled with frank detail and awe for her surroundings, Worth pulls the reader right into the squalor and finds beauty there. The midwives move through the East End on one speed bikes, hauling their simple medical implements, winding through the maze of barely paved lanes and back alleys to deliver baby after baby. Nearly 100 a month!
One aspect of Worth's writing I found a little off-putting was her attempt at conveying the cockney accent spoken by most East Enders of that time. It stops the flow and nearly always comes up when she's explaining a very touching situation and creates this moment of unintentional humor where I'm pretty sure there was very little.
Worth's writing shines when she describes her patients.
"Large families may be the norm, but this is ridiculous...The twenty-fourth baby! And Mrs Conchita Warren spoke no English. I was fascinated. This was the stuff of high romance. A peasant girl!"
Throughout this memoir there is a great deal of sadness too. A lot of East Enders were the forgotten of London, many of them homeless after being thrown into the streets by greedy, heartless landlords. There were no social services available at that time so if the family being evicted was fatherless, which was often the case, the children were absorbed into orphanages and the women left to fend for themselves.
"The pill was introduced in the early 1960's and modern woman was born. Women were no longer going to be tied to the cycle of endless babies; they were going to be themselves. With the pill came what we now call the sexual revolution. In the late 1950's we had 80 to 100 deliveries a month on our books. In 1963 the number dropped to four or five a month."
With the creation of the PBS series, Worth's books have become world famous and the series is the most watched in the history of PBS. Sadly, Worth died of cancer in May 2011 never seeing the first episode. What she left behind is a look into a small piece of history that will take up a big part in your heart.
which, as good as it is, can't begin to contextualize the stories the way a book does. This surprisingly well-written memoir really presents and in depth view of Docklands culture in the fifties and puts it in a historical context. You learn about huge families living in two room s in buildings that were condemned ten years earlier, about the tragedy of workhouses, runaways, and the irrepressible good humor of the cockneys in the face of life the way it was. Also very interesting is the history of midwifery and prenatal care. The characters at Nunnatus House and beyond are also very nuanced and three dimensional. Perhaps the greatest surprise is the spiritual awakening of young Jenny as she lives with and observes the nuns and their vocation. I am looking forward to the next installment.
This is a remarkable book (and series). It puts us "inside" a young woman's journey through suffering and poverty to hope and faith. The books and the television series are refreshingly different form the usual narratives. They are shockingly inspirational. Mary Jo Leddy
I was a medical student at the London Hospital at or aroundvthebtime this book was written. We never questioned where the midwives came from,monkey glad that they mostly arrived on time or as we advanced by a week or so, a little later. This gave us a chance to handle more of the process and of course drink another cup of tea.m I too was struck by the courage, generosity and warmth of these people and felt that the midwives had enriched my life even though I would never be an obstetrician or even a surgeon. These experiences gave us the confidence to move forward, practice our skills. The book was excellent and paints a picture I recall myself. Always at night,ball ways when we were most deeply asleep. Hurrah for this delightful historical snapshot. Peter.
I usually try to read the book or books before I see it at the movies or on television but in this case I saw the television series first. In a way in this case it probably was best I saw the tv version first as I can put a face and a voice to the characters in the book. I just started reading the book a couple of days ago and it's so interesting and at times funny that I just cannot put it down. The author really has done an amazing job on this book. You feel like you are living in the east end of London in the 1950's. What I really thought was a great addition in the book is how in the appendix it explains some of the medical terms used throughout the book. It also explains some of the cockney terms which was great as many terms were unfamiliar to me. I'm so glad that I purchased all 3 books as I know they are going to be a great read. There are so many things I could say about how awesome this book is but I think you should just go ahead and read it. You will love it. As per usually it was super fast shipping and great value from Amazon.
There are a few more gritty details in the book than in the TV series. (Congratulations to the producers for doing such a good job though). As a child of postwar Britain it was a bit painful to recollect some of those bad old days and just how squalid some aspects of life could be. As a male reader, I've probably learned more about childbirth than I ever cared or wanted to know.... but it was a quite riveting read and seeing the TV series first didn't spoil it.