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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly Written Memoir!,
This review is from: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Paperback)Story Description:
Penguin Books USA|September 4, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-14-312325-5
Jennifer Worth was just twenty-two when she volunteered to spend her early years of midwifery training in London's East End in the 1950's. 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.
At Nonnatus House lived a long list of midwives and was situated in the heart of the London Docklands. The practice covered a wide area from Stephney to Limehouse to Millwall to the Isle of Dogs and beyond. Family life was lived in close quarters and children brought up by a widely extended family of aunts, grandparents, cousins, and older siblings, all living with a few houses of each other. Often families of up to nineteen lived in 3 rooms and the conditions were deplorable. Fleas and lice were common pests. There was no transportation in those days so the midwives rode bicycles to the homes of their patients to deliver babies. Riding a bicycle through rain, thick fog, and freezing temperatures at two or three in the morning was no picnic I'm sure.
Children were everywhere, and streets were their playgrounds. In the 1950's there were no cars on the back streets, because no one had a car, so it was safe to play there. In some very overcrowded houses, domestic violence was expected. But gratuitous violence was never heard of towards the elderly. People worked hard for their money, working long eighteen hour days unloading crates at the docks. Employment was high, but wages were low.
Early marriage was the norm and most families had fourteen to nineteen children until the introduction of the pill in the 1960's and the modern woman was born. Women were no longer tied to the cycle of endless babies. In the late 1950's there were 80-100 deliveries per month and in 1963 that number dropped to 4 or 5 a month! Nursing and midwifery were in a deplorable state and was not considered a respectable occupation for any educated woman. In the nineteenth century no poor woman could afford to pay the fee required by a doctor for the delivery of her baby. So she was forced to rely on the services of an un-trained, self-taught midwife, or "handywoman." Finally in 1902 the first Midwives Act was passed and the Royal College of Midwives was born. The work of the Midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus was based upon a foundation of religious discipline.
Jennifer Worth first met with the Midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus in the 1950's and it turned out to be the best experience of her life. At first, Jennifer wondered why she'd ever started this midwifery thing - she could have been anything: a model, air hostess, or a ship's stewardess but there she is at 2:30 in the morning riding her bicycle through the rain soaked streets on her way to a delivery after a 17-hour work day and only 3 hours sleep.
As she arrives at the home of her patient, she is greeted by a congregation of women -the patient's mother, two grandmothers, two or three aunts, sisters, best friends, and a neighbour. In the middle of this gaggle of women is a solitary man. The patient is, Muriel, a girl of twenty-five who is having her fourth baby. Jennifer realizes quickly that Muriel is nearing the end of her second stage of labour. As Jennifer prepares to conduct an internal exam, she sees another pain come upon her - you can see it building in strength until it seems her poor body will break apart. Jennifer readies her tray of equipment - scissors, cord clamps, cord tape, fetal stethoscope, kidney dishes, gauze, cotton swabs and artery forceps. Muriel's pains are coming every 3 minutes now and suddenly her water breaks and floods the bed. With the next contraction Jennifer can see the head. More and more contractions come and the head is coming fast, too fast! She tells Muriel to pant, the head is out and she is just delivering the shoulders. Finally the baby slides out and it's a boy! Jennifer is excited, she now understands why she does this job. She steps outside in the bright morning sunlight with plans to return to see the new mother again at noon hour and once more in the evening. However, as you will read, not all her deliveries go quite so well.
Jennifer's life developed from a childhood disrupted by war, a passionate love affair at only age sixteen, and the knowledge three years later that she had to get away. So, for "purely pragmatic reasons, my choice was nursing." Does she regret it? "Never, never, never. I wouldn't swap my job for anything on earth."
Call the Midwife is an honest look at midwifery in the 1950's and 1960's and the deplorable conditions that these women were forced to bear their children under. Without Midwives, I don't know what these women would have done. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and read it in one sitting.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look into a by gone era,
This review is from: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Paperback)This memoir reads like fiction but it is a wonderful real life journey back into the past to see a very hard time in history. The conditions that the people lived in and the midwives worked in was horrendous, but the sense of community was a live and well and they all rallied together. The stories of the births of precious little babies whether it be the mothers first or her twenty fourth were all wonderfully captured in this book. The joy, heartbreak and everything in between is captured here and will live with you long after you finish this volume. I highly recommend you set aside at least a weekend to read this as once you start you will not want to put it down!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great read.,
This review is from: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Paperback)This is the third book in the trilogy. I had read the first and second book and also watched the show on TV. I enjoyed this book as much as the first two and am going to send them on to a friend.
5.0 out of 5 stars Loving this book.,
This review is from: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Paperback)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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Babes in the 'hood,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars more gritty than the programme,
This review is from: Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s (Paperback)I was a child in Scotland during the 1950's. The book filled in some of the background that the TV programme on PBS could not. A good depiction of a very difficult time for the working class in the UK .
5.0 out of 5 stars Believable,
I liked the breakdown of the characters.
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read .........,
This review is from: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Paperback)Although not an East Ender, I found this book a fascinating read. I was also addicted to the TV series! Of special interest to those readers who may, like myself, had been convent educated and/or gave birth to their own babies in the 1950's. I was pleased with the mention of Dr. Grantley Dick-Read's book, a great help in those days when expectant mothers were given little information about giving birth.
5.0 out of 5 stars Call The Midwife,
This review is from: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Paperback)Good reading and explains a lot about life in the early 1900's up to the 1950's in the docklands areas of London.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book,
Is a great story of real life in that era, a mixture of humour, sadness and realization.
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Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth (Paperback - Sep 4 2012)
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