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I bought this book way before there was even talk of a TV series after finding it in a supermarket at a reasonable price and thinking it would be my kind of thing as I am very interested in history of the 1940-1960's era and having 3 children myself I thought an insight into midwiffery during these times would be interesting and I wasn't wrong.
Jennifer Worth is a young midwife who lives in a nunnery and works around the docklands of London meeting all kinds of people during the book. You get a real insight to what life must have been like, the poverty, desperation, hope and love that was around during those times. Many mothers were living in slums and far from adequate accommodation though with a kind heart they did the best they could by their children and Jennifer admires them rather than pities them. The love stories between certain couples are documented in a fine way, you can really imagine the scenes that Jennifer describes and the emotions that were going on.
She also does nursing through the book and meets many older people whom were shadows of the work houses, these people live alone in terrible conditions with painful ailments and desperate lonliness. Jennifer befriends one elderly gentleman inparticular and spends a lot of her free time with him which he enjoys immencily, she soon learns how to accept a drink without accepting the utter filth in the cups by only drinking cold drinks which won't disturb the dirt and all is fine.
The characters she describes are fantasticly written about and I cannot praise the author enough for the full details and way this book is written.
(Hardback Edition )
I had wanted to see the television program "Call the midwife" (a three part drama covering three books Jennifer Worth wrote about east end life in the 1950's-there is a fourth book but it is technically not part of the midwifery trilogy) when it was on but after missing the first two of three episodes and not finding it on catch-up I moved on. Some friends had spoke of how gripping it was so when I saw the book I told my husband it would be a good birthday present for me (wink, wink!). I was eager to get started with this book but wasn't able to for a couple days as we had friends staying with us.
A little history with me and books: I enjoy the idea of a good book and am currently trying to teach my son to enjoy books. I have always found reading hard. I read quite slow and there have been times where I will read a sentence about four times before I get my head around it. I don't have any confirmed learning disabilities but when I was about fifteen after years of asking for help I went for some testing and the testing company told my school to allow me extra time with exams. They may have told my mother what they thought was going on but I don't remember being told myself. Personally I think I suffer with a form of dislexia. Anyway the point is that I have always wanted to enjoy books but very rarely finished one. I like the stories and begin to picture the characters in my head but I stop wanting to sit and have a read because of the difficulty.
Each chapter is it's own mini story. Only a few chapters carry on a story from the one before which works quite well for me. I find I have to re-read the last couple pages of a chapter to remember where I left off with most books but knowing the characters is enough to jump right in with Call the Midwife. Many of the stories show a dialog going on between characters with a ton of cockney slang. Good fun reading it and throwing in an accent for a giggle.
The book first welcomes the reader in with photos of Jennifer Worth (the author) and her family over the years. I have always been a fan of history so this was a perfect welcome for me. Made me excited to begin the story. Important then and now is nursing and hospital care and Jenny felt that midwifery was her calling. Coming from a more sheltered West End background Jenny found herself in an East End convent for midwifery training. Deep in the heart of the Docklands in the 1950's Jenny meets many characters and tells of the things she saw and was a part of.
One of my favourite chapters is the one about a young boy who befriends one of the training nurses. The nurse is learning to ride a bicycle it takes her some time to get the hang of it. The boy is a bit of a touchy in the neighborhood and helps to stop the other children from putting her off he learning. He stays with her many days and nits to look out for her. The nurse is so pleased with his kindness that she putts her pennies together and buys him a cycle of his own. The chapter ends like this, " Twenty-five years later, a shy young girl called Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to marry Prince Charles, heir to the throne. I saw several film clips of her arriving at various engagements. Each time when the car stopped, the front near side door would open, and her bodyguard would step out and open the rear door for Lady Diana. Then he would stand, jaw thrust forward, legs slightly apart, and look coolly around him at the crowds, a mature Jack, still practising the skills he had acquired in childhood, looking after his lady." Still makes the hair on my arms rise and a smile appear on my face. Throughout the book some names are changed but I like to think that this man has read the lovely account of him as a kind and thoughtful child.
It is amazing to read about the conditions people lived in and gave birth in only half a century ago. My mother was born a short distance from Poplar in 1948 so at the same time as these stories are taking place. I have always known that things were tough and money was tight for her and my uncle growing up but to think that things were probably worse than I had originally pictured is sad even though i think they still were better of than some of the people Jenny met. I am sure there were some tenaments that were in better conditions during these times but Jenny visits some of the extremely poor along her travels.
The photos of people she knew, nursing posters and pictures of life in those days appear throughout the book and help the reader to picture the goings on. I think The author does a fabulous job describing the people she is talking about. I had no trouble getting a mental image of the nuns at the convent. She tells of a lady at a bus stop one day and the image painted in my mind of that girl is vivid as if I am meeting her myself. Not every chapter has a happy ending as thus goes real life.
Are there any downsides to this book? Well yes ... I started noticing every few pages that there would be a spelling mistake or a missing space between two words. At first I thought it was me but I showed a few to my husband and he confirmed I wasn't going crazy. I have noticed a good number of these print mistakes which in the greater scheme of things is of no importance but I find for me it makes me stumble for a minute before I can get myself around the sentence and moved on.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this book. The three part series was on over Christmas and I had set it to record but was fearful of watching it! This sounds ridiculous but my husband was afraid of seeing Lord of the Rings for the same reason. I have a picture in my head of the goings on in the stories and the way the characters look and I don't want that ruined. I got ready and sat down to watch it only to find the recording had clashed. I could have found a plus one station or something like that but I took the clash as a sign and sat down to read the end of the book instead.
The hardback illustrated edition I have was £14 in Waterstones when my husband bought it for me but you can pick up a paperback edition on Amazon for about £7.
A little extra I found out about the author: Jennifer Worth wrote her series of books in response to an article by Terri Coates (Royal College of Midwives Journal) which said that midwives weren't showing up enough in literature and called for "a midwife somewhere to do for midwifery what James Herriot did for vets". Jennifer died in May 2011 from oesophageal cancer aged 75.
Oioiyou 2012 (c)
This book was lent to me by my Mum yesterday as we are both avid readers (although her taste in books is rather different to mine). I am stuck at home with a broken ankle and shoulder so I can't do much else but to read. When I first looked at the book I immediately thought of the TV series that I had seen advertised on the TV recently but never bothered to watch (I am a CSI nut and having sky it seems to be on constantly so my TV experiences don't stray much from there!!). I took the book and put it to one side thinking that I would give it back to her a few days later telling her that I had read it and it was great (Lies....I know....!!!). So maybe an hour later my partner decided to put some F1 programme on so I picked up the book huffily and started to read.......and read....and read until 2 hours later and the whole 340 pages had been read!!!!
On first look at the book, to be honest it's not that eyecatching. In Block Capitals the name JENNIFER WORTH and in smaller caps underneath THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER. A third way down the cover CALL THE MIDWIFE - and below - A True Story of the East End in the 1950s. The picture that fills the rest of the page is of three women, midwifes as you can tell by the old fashioned red hats with gold button and blue dress with white collar, on bicycles in front of children on the street and lines of washing strung from one house to another. A nice picture once you really look at it but not one you would notice in the midst of other books. In the right hand bottom corner written in a box is the words As Seen On BBC.
The back cover promotes the story saying -
LIFE IN LONDONS EAST END in the 1950s was tough. The brothels of Cable Street, the Kray brothers and gang warfare, the meths drinkers in the bombsites - this was the world Jennifer worth entered when she became a midwife at the age of twenty-two. Babies were born in slum conditions, often with no running water. Funny, disturbing and moving, Call the Midwife brings to life a world that has now changed beyond measure.
Underneath this blurb there are pictures of the 4 books, I want to say in the series but having not read them I cannot say for sure, Jennifer Worth has also wrote. The back cover also promotes the cast of the BBC show with their names underneath. having read the story now I am able to look at the characters and place a few of them in the story even though it only gives their real names and not the names of them in the show.
Overall not a great cover to the book but not a bad one either. What's inside totally makes up for what is missing on the outside. On the subject of the content of the book, I am going to get right to it as anyone could have wrote what I have already have just by looking at the book (I want to be concise as this truly is an amazing book!).
The book starts with an 8 page introduction into Nonnatus House, a house with a 'family' of Nuns living in it who had all trained and were qualified Nurses and Midwives. The house of St Raymond Nonnatus was in teh London Docklands and was opened by a group of devoted Anglican Nuns devoted in bringing safer childcare to the poor. There were also other houses opened by the same order in various slums of Great Britain for the same reason.
It is discovered in the book that Jennifer Worth was a a midwife workin with the Nuns and living in Nonnatus house. She had originally trained at The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading as a nurse before moving onto Nonnatis house to become a midwife and judging by the rest of the story she was a brilliant one at that!!!
The book takes you through many different types of birth (some of which I will mention later) but also tells the story of what it was like to be living in London in the 1950s and some of the cultures and mannerisms of the people who lived and worked there.
I particularly enjoyed the way she spoke about the respect given to midwives in that era, a respect which we do not always see now. The fact that a midwife was one of the very few people that could go walk or cycle any time of day or night to attend a patient and always be greeted with a smile or a cheery wave despite all of the brothels, gangs and 'bad pennies'. They felt safe and secure no matter where they went which just shows what an amazing job they done and how they were admired for it.
In one part of the story it tells you about a midwife who called herself 'Chummy' she was a rather larger than life character '' 6 foot 2 inches tall, with shoulders like a front row forward snd size 11 feet'' described by Jennifer as what she thought was a ''bloke in drag'' the first time that she seen her. Chummy was a person who spoke with phrases such as ''good-egg'' and ''old-bean'' and was that clumsy she could fall over her own shadow!!
To get around midwifes had to use bikes as there were not many cars around in the 1950's and it was the faster mode of transport for making emergency calls or basic everyday visiting as they each had a lot of patients to get through each day. ''Chummy'' did not know how to ride a bike and needed to learn, because of her size the only bike available for her long legs was a large Raleigh of about 1910 vintage made of solid iron which weighed about half a tonne!!! Her answer to this was positive as always ''Never Mind, I can learn'' and ''Not to worry, I can practice''.
Through this activity her respect was earned not just because of the midwife that she was but the was she handled herself and the respect that she gave out to others, others like a tough looking 12 year old who was at first jeering her when he saw what she was doing but then turned his jeers into silent admiration for the woman who fell off the bike more than she was on it and positively declared her grazed knee with the gushing blood - ''just a scratch'' or her head when banged on a kerb ''no brains, no hurt''!!! That boy, Jack, then went onto teach her and aid her to ride the bike early in the mornings and late at night, declaring to her that if she were to get any trouble off the children who followed her and jeered at the sight of her attempts, just to tell him and he would sort it out for her. I thought that this was an amazing thing to have achieved such a connection with a child and I was nearly in tears reading that when she had to learned to ride the bike, she presented him with a bike of his own for helping her to ride. Something which a lot of children did not have in the 50's. Even though she was perfectly able to ride on her own and there was no threat of danger to her he still went with her on her calls, him on his bike and her on hers and he waited outside guarding the two bikes for all that he was worth - amazing!!
The stories that are told of the births and some of the conditions that they had to deliver the babies in make you gasp outloud!! It is such a different world from today. I don't want to go into too much detail as if you are wanting to read the book I don't want to spoil it all for you as most of it is more powerful when you are reading it all to yourself at once.
Jennifer writes the book with the upmost admiration and loyalty to the Nuns and it is not surprising why when the different events are presented in thhe story. This is truly a book that will make you laugh out loud in places and reach for the tissues in others. I am truly thankful that I was able to read it as I am now going to give this book back to my Mum (She donated them back to the St Johns Hospice, where she purchaced them from, once they have been read) and purchace a copy of this, the other books in the series and also the DVD of the BBC series to have for myself as I know that this will be a book I will read again and again!
The Book - Call The Midwife can be purchaced from Amazon for £3.86 + FREE P+P for the copy that I have or if you want to get the matching set the book also has another cover and this copy can be purchaced for £3.92 + FREE P+P.
To buy the full set of matching books from Jennifer Worth you can get Call The Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, Farewell to the East End and In The Midst of Life from Amazon.co.uk. They are all purchaced separately (not a box set) and are a combigned price of £15.62 FREE P+P.
The DVD set of Call The Midwife is also on Amazon for £11.99 FREE P+P.
In case you are wondering I am not promoting the book!!! :) I just think that Call the Midwife is an amazing read and plan on getting the whole set ASAP and just thought others maybe interested aswell.
100% Amazing read, must have book for anyones collection. Highly Recommended!!
First of all Call the Midwife, is a series of three books, each follows the other, on which the new hit BBC series (One) is based. Unfortunately, Jennifer Worth died just before filming began and therefore, she never got to see her books 'come to life' as it were.
The first book 'Call the Midwife' tells the story of a newly qualified midwife who descends upon the East End of London in the late 40's and early 50's, I would say that expands up to and including the onset of the 60's.
The books, in truth, offer different perspectives on different stories which are recounted by Worth from her experiences (some of which are secondhand) during her stay working as a Midwife and Nurse at Nonnautus House. When she arrives, she is somewhat surprised to find that she is working alongside Nuns, when she was expecting a hospital. Immediately, her eyes and ears are opened to the squalor and poverty she sees all around her. The East Enders have an aversion to modern practices and require patience, understanding, empathy and educating. The story, which is clearly set some 10 to 15 years before the onset of the pill, describes the very real conditions that most experienced of that era. i.e. having multiple pregnancies and very large families and living in cramped conditions that harks back to the Dickens Era, or so we think.
It further tells of the social aspects of a young midwives life and delves somewhat into her own experiences of spirituality and her understanding and drive and even ambition to do her job. Often she feels drawn to the chaste life of the nuns she works alongside and steers away from socialising with the other midwives until Chummy comes along.
The most harrowing stories come from the book entitled 'Shadows of the Workhouse', which recounts the experiences of people who have survived into adult hood when placed in the care of the workhouse as children. Dark tales emerge of incest, rape, prostitution, domestic violence to say nothing of the very real horror of giving birth alone or going for an illegal abortion.
The story tells of the unstinting work of the nuns and midwives and their relationship to the people of the East End. All three books are a must read and add as a enlightened reminder of how just one generation removed lived and of how the onset of the NHS in 1947/8 became the cornerstone for change for women's rights in accessing appropriate medical care for pregnancy and after care.
I brought this book during the summer prior to starting my access to health course, as my summer reading material. I was most taken back by the things i read within this book and learn alot about midwifery care of how it was in the 1950's in the east end.
It is written by a midwife who tells hers story of her journey through midwifery amoung the slums and war wridden areas during 1950's. I was amazed to read about the different types of procedures performed that would be easily delt with today. It was shocking to read but very inspiring when doctors and midwives road bikes through all sorts of weather to go to home births and perform most frightening of procedures be the outcome good or bad. Also very inpiring was the family union of some of the familys within the slum areas in the east end, some with many children in bad living conditions, but yet still very much together and the love that was felt through reading of one lady who had birthed many childing living in a house with clothes pilled up in the hallway and she spoke little english, yet she was very much a commited and loving mother, just making her way through her pregnancy and looking after her children despite her living conditions. It was also great to get an insight of how far we have come today wihtin the NHS, and how lucky we are to have the services available to us today. The way in which midwives worked during the 195os in the ast end, is one that is most inspireing to me, and is why i am so commited in becoming a midwife myself :) Reccommened GREAT read, both for midwives and others who enjoy history and true stories... i could read this over and over and still smile even when shocked in some parts, fantasticly written account of the truth of midwifery in the east end during the 1950 :) enjoy
I was actually given the book "Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth" to read by a friend.
The book is the working life story of the author, set in the 1950's of East end London where she began her training as a midwife with the nuns. This was the start of midwifery as we know it, prior to this there had been no trained midwifes, babies were born by there mothers and there mothers alike with no or little outside help. If help was required either a lady who delivered a lot of babies was called upon or if very lucky the doctor was called, although the doctors often had little or no training in births.
The story might to some seem like it may be somewhat repetitive and I must admit I was prone to that thought before I commenced reading. This book is full of surprises though, I found it captivating the whole way threw and yes most of each chapter does relay a tale of a birth, each is so different from the previous, it is a joy to read.
I particularly like the way the author has included the London dialect into the book and even goes as far as a small section in the appendix to elaborate the meanings for those who can't work it out. It brings so much more real life to the stories. In the back there can also be found medical terms used and what they mean.
This period of London was the times of the slums, post war Britain and the Kray brothers ran the East end. I particularly liked the sentence in the book that Jennifer wrote when she said that no one would walk alone in the East end at night for fear of the Krays - the only people that could go out alone at any hour without fear of attack were the midwives! They apparently had the respect of everyone - including the Kray's.
The book can get heart wrenching at times, the stories go into so much detail of life back then, which although grateful in many respects that progress has been made, I can't help feeling that we have lost an innocence and simplicity of life that those people enjoyed.
One of my favourite chapters emphasises this to me and it is that of Len and Conchita, who had 24 babies!! And that was 25 by the end of the book!
Jennifer gives precise details of deliveries so beware for those a little squeamish. This my not be the best book if you are about to give birth yourself - save it for after!
The detail that Jennifer goes into does not just enact the births but the surroundings as well, with the prostitution, dockyards and beginnings of mixed races. She somehow manages to capture you right back there in the middle of it all.
I 100% recommend this book to others. It is a fabulous read of true East end London and the hardships people dealt with post war, told threw the eyes of a midwife.
This book can be found on Amazon for around £5 and un-known to myself at the time this is the first in a three part trilogy the next two books (which I will now get to read are ) Shadows of the workhouse and farewell to the East end.
This review maybe posted on Dooyoo and also on Ciao under the same username.
I read this biographical novel shortly before having my second child and have to say that it was a fascinating read, if you are in a similar position you will not be able to put it down. Worth manages to provide great insight into the life led by a midwife working in 1950s East London and indeed you can see how modern day midwifery has evolved. The reader immediately feels drawn in due to her brilliant characterisation. Furthermore she does a great job in portraying the cultural diversity apparent and subsequent issues at this time. This book is a must read for those with a particular interest in midwifey or/and mid twentieth century London. I have to say that after having my two children, I am extremely grateful for the standards of care today, this novel was a true eye opener. I very much look forward to reading Worth's two subsequent biographical novels.
I am a lover of books that are based on true life and especially those centered around East End life as I come from a family of Londoners myself. Call the Midwife was a book I came across while browsing for something a little different to read and I thought the subject of midwifery in the 1950s could be just the ticket.
Call the Midwife is all about the author, Jennifer Worth and her time of training to become a midwife in the East End of London. She tells some of the stories of the first births she went to and the appalling state in which many of these women had to give birth. Her narratives are so interesting and exciting to read and by the end of the book you feel that you just want to know more and more about the women she came across. The story also tells of her relationship with the order of nuns she comes to stay with whilst doing her midwifery training. Although there are parts of the book which will move you to tears, there is also some wonderful humour so don't think the book will leave you feeling miserable, because it won't!
Jennifer Worth's narrative paints such a vivid picture of what women really went through in the East End when requiring the services of a midwife and I found every part of this book such a pleasure to read. It is one of those books you start and simply don't want to put down as it holds so much information, and so wonderfully told too. I enjoyed discussing the book with my nan who was born in the 40s, in the East End. I think I brought back many memories to her about living there in the 50s and as such I believe this book would appeal to the young and old. Being in my 20s myself it certainly opened up my eyes and made me realise how far things have progressed in midwifery since then.
I think even those of you who don't really have an interest in nursing or midwifery would still find this a fascinating read as it reads very much like fiction and gives such a wonderful insight into a part of English history. Just make sure when you start it that you won't have to be rushed to put it down, as it is such a page turner!
This book tells the story of a trainee midwife in the 1950's docklands of London at Nonnatus House trained by Nuns. It is undoubtedly a brilliant book which makes an avid read however some of the graphic descriptions of the prositutes actions on Cable Street might make you think twice about giving this as a nostalgic gift to conservative aunts, mother in laws or grannies.
Without doubt this book will make you think about how in such a short space of time (50 to 60 years) life on our island has changed. This is a period in time when hygiene and cleanliness were not abundant and tenement buildings with their primitive facilities were still about. But without doubt the sense of community shines through regardless.
The individual stories contained within this book draw you in, the plight of Molly and her children and Mary who came over from Ireland and ended up being a prostitute who became pregnant and Mrs Jenkins a victim of the workhouses who lost all her children but was always outside the house at the time of every local birth. The stories of the Nuns and the continuing strive made by them to improve midwifery in their community in what we would consider appauling conditions they did un-erringly and the experience and wisdom they passed onto the young midwives.
Funniest bit of the book for me is when Chummy one of the midwives described as completely ungainly has to learn to ride a bike, as is necessary for a docklands midwife and then crashes it resulting in concussion - my partner and I were in tears.
Review of 'Call the Midwife' by Jennifer Worth.
This book is true story of the life and work of a young midwife, Jennifer Worth. Jennifer worked in the East End of London in the 1950s, her patients were among the poorest, toughest members of the Dockland community.
The second World War had left London ravaged and in parts derelict. Children had bombsites for their playgrounds and many homes that had been declared unfit for human occupation prior to the war, were still in use. Photographs within the book show just how badly some areas of London were affected. Families were crowded into condemned tenement buildings with no running water or inside lavatories were the norm for the resilient East Enders of the time. Large families lived cheek by jowl with the prostitutes and brothels of Cable Street. Racial prejudice was rife, with girls who gave birth to a mixed race child were scorned and vilified.
Jennifer worked and lived with the nuns of the St Raymonds Nonnatus, a religious order based in London's docklands. The nuns were qualified nurses and midwives who served their community, mixing with the rough and ready dockers and cheerful Cockneys in a caring but 'no nonsense' way. Nursing staff were trained as midwives by the order and as such actually lived with the nuns. The Nuns were all too human and their foibles and idiosyncrasies are there in all their glory! The nuns came from widely varying backgrounds, some well to do, some definitely not, but their dedication and devotion to their calling put them all on an even keel. Jennifer had her favourites and although she was not a religious person herself, found living and working from the convent, strangely peaceful and rewarding.
Jennifer writes with obvious affection and loyalty to the Nuns and the patients she tended, her characters are so well described that the reader almost feels they know them. Who could ever forget Conchita, the non- English speaking Spanish woman, married to a non-Spanish speaking Londoner? Conchita and her husband Len went on to have 25 babies. No, that is not a typing error, 25 babies, all of whom survived! Lack of language skills obviously had some compensations! Or Mary, the gentle Irish girl who fell in with the 'wrong' company and ended up pregnant, alone and terrified? The fact that these are true stories makes the book and Jennifer's memories all the more touching.
More I will not divulge here for fear of spoiling the book for others.
Jennifer Worth trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and then moved to London to train as a midwife. She later became a staff nurse at the Royal London hospital, Whitechapel. She later moved to the Elizabeth Garrett Hospital, Euston where she was a ward sister. Jennifer left nursing in 1973 in order to study music, a passion of hers.
Jennifer Worth is married with two daughters and three grandchildren, she now lives in Hertforshire.
Published by Orion Books in 2002.
Jacket price £6.99, available on www.amazon.co.uk from £2.85
**My thoughts and conclusion**
This is a remarkable book, it has made a lasting impression on me and I am full of respect and amazement for the women of 1950s London. They coped and managed under extremely difficult circumstances that many a modern woman could scarcely imagine, let alone put up with!
Since reading 'Call the Midwife', I have spoken at length to my own mother and grandmother, now aged 76 and 95, respectively, they lived in the shadow of one of these nursing convents and have many wonderful memories of the nuns, infact my mother was named Kathleen, as a mark of respect for one of the Nuns, Sister Kathleen.
All I can say is the women, both nuns and otherwise are to be applauded for their service to their communities.
As a child of the 1950s myself, I thank them for all their hard work and devotion.
Thank you for reading
N.B. My reviews may appear on other review sites, under the same user name, brittle1906.
Updated September 2009 ©brittle1906
This review also published on Ciao and Peazyshop under the same name.
My mother-in law kindly sent me this book up to read just before christmas, at first i was a little weary as from the cover it did look a little boring, but you know what they say-never judge a book by it's cover( sorry had to be done). Anyway i love to read anything that crosses my path weather it be a magazine or a novel. So one afternoon after putting the girls down for a nap i went upstairs and started on this book that had been sat staring at me for the last two days to read it.
After reading the back cover i learned that it was a true story, based in the east end back in the 1950's and hence the title it is based around midwifery and was written by Jennifer Worth who i have found out since finishing the book that she has write a few other true stories.
In the first chapter we read how the author first became a midwife and how she was transferred to work in the east end of London in the 1950's. She arrived with her things and she tells us of how nervous she was to be working here compared to her old placement outside of London. She had never been to London and from her first glances she didn't particularly want to be there. She found where she was to be staying at the Nonnatus house which was a large religious house where many nuns stayed to pray and worship although surprisingly the nuns where are fully trained midwifes as well.
The story moves on and we get to read all about how midwifes worked back in the 50's.The author gives us a great insight into how things where done back then and as each chapter went on i found myself becoming more and more engrossed to the point where i couldn't put the book down. She describes in detail of how living conditions where like and what the people of London back then had to go through just to survive each day.
I was more shocked to read how the average family had between 8-10 children in a family but then again back then i suppose contraception wasn't really a big thing and having big families was all the rage. She focus's particularly on one family which did interest me and that was of a man who had met a women in Spain when he fought in the Spanish war. He had brought her back over to England when she was about 12 years old and they married, since being together they have had 24 children and she was only 42 years of age, at first the midwife had thought that her supervisor must of wrote the number wrong, but no she and her husband had her 24 children.
The women couldn't speak a word of English although she could understand her husband and other people, and she had taught her children to speak Spanish even though they where clear at English. They lived in a tiny house but it was always kept clean and tidy. The mother used to cook each day for her family, and the midwife described of how whenever she used to step into the house she could soon feel a sense of love and respect that each and every one of the children gave to each other. She regularly visited the house and not once did she see any of the children bicker or fight.
Towards the end of the book, the author concentrates on the gripping birth that the Spanish women Conchita has. She unexpectedly goes into labor early after having a nasty fall outside on some ice. For the last three chapters we follow what happens and how once the baby was born and needing urgent medical help, Conchita refused to go, will the baby survive on just her mothers love or will it be a tragic ending??
~What i thought~
I truly and honestly thought that this was a great insight into how midwifes worked back in the 50's. The story was so gripping and powerful. The author made me laugh and she also made me cry. She didn't hold back any details regarding how life was like back then and i got such a clear picture in my head from the way she described everything.
I was totally fasinated with the book and with things like how they cared for babies and pregnant women, one instance was how straight after a baby is born the midwife would hold him/her upside by the legs for a few seconds to check that there was no mucus stuck in the lungs, and how that mothers had to be on bed rest for two weeks after she had given birth. I mean these days midwifes would never dream of holding a baby upside down for fear of being sued! But it never did the babies back then any harm so why have we stopped doing it today?
This book really did open my eyes about what midwifes had to go through back then, and also families who had to live in slums. After reading this book i count my self lucky that i have a nice house and food on the table.
this book is amazing. having heard about it from a friend i was eager to read it. jennifer worth was a midwife in the 1950s and her stories of the ladies of east end London are heartwarming ones. the imaages are very graphic and sound appalling. the midwives having to ride their bicycles to labouring mothers are something we cannot imagine today. very few woman had hospital births- unless there were complications or the home was not fit. the norm was to give birth in the home. there was very little antenatal care. certainly no scans then!!!
the women written about were amazing- the spanish lady who had 20+births and the story of her very premature baby was beyond belief. and Mary the young 15year old whose baby was taken away from her without her consent was shocking. it made me cry. i wish we had known what happenned to her afterwards. the grim description of the children back then was at times horrific- the 2 little boys wearing just clothes on their top halves so that mum didnt have to bother washing them when they went to the toilet.
this book was one of those i didnt want to put down but didnt want to finsh either. just fantastic. will equally appeal to mums and non mums!!! i cannot wait for her next book.
Wow what a powerfull book. This is such a hearfelt storey I found myself totally absorbed by the hard truth, love and devotion in each part of the author's exsperience's, some of which I found a little distressing and unexspected. Saying that I have reread it as I liked it so much and highly recomend it to anyone.
The main caracter tell's her storey from her first day as a midwife in the 1950's and of all that the job includes, the women and thier familly's that she meat's and her friend's in her private life. Some of the storey's are very happy and show the strength that can be found in poeple and bad situation's. Some of the storey's are quite horrific and hard to believe could happen but at the same time it also show's compassion for the bad exsperiance's she goes through. This is a deep book not for the faint hearted but one of the best I have ever read.
I've always been more interested in reading about the real lives of others than reading fiction so the book Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth caught my eye. It tells the story of the authors time spent as a midwife working from a convent in the East End of London in the 1950s.
Through the book, Worth tells the stories of many of the women that she cared for in a warm and humorous manner. There are many heartwarming tales such as the premature birth of Conchita and Lens twenty-fifth baby and how a strong mothering instinct saved him and the friendship developed when a young lad teaches Chummy, an upper class nun, to ride a bicycle.
There are also some heartbreaking stories such as that of Mary, a young girl who flees an abusive home life in rural Ireland lured by the bright lights and dreams of the big city. Alone and destitute, she is tricked into a life of prostitution and flees when she becomes pregnant but loses her baby to a forced adoption as she doesn't have the means to support it.
Mrs Jenkins is an eccentric figure who traipses the streets of London obsessed with babies and we learn the tragic story of how she had been forced into the workhouse as a young widow and separated from her children who died one by one and how she wasn't even able to attend their funerals.
The history of midwifery is touched upon in the book and although I sometimes found the terminology and descriptions of birth and ante natal care a bit graphic, it was fascinating to see how much our experiences of pregnancy and childbirth have changed over the years. Nowadays a woman who gives birth at home is a rare occurrence but home confinement in was the norm in those days. It reminded me of my grandmother who had six children at home in a miners cottage in the forties and gave me more respect for her generation and what they have been through. We really do have things easy now in comparison.
The book also gives an excellent general insight into London life at that time. I found the appendix explaining more about the cockney dialect intriguing. History books often tell the story of the great and good but I loved the insight it gave me about how Joe Average lived then.
I have often heard people wax lyrical about the good old days. What can be so great about a time of desperate poverty, rickets, malnutrition and slum living I hear myself ask. Jennifer Worth answers this question in this book without romanticising the very real hardships that the people faced, the warmth, strong family unit and community feelings were what people loved about that time. This is a truly exceptional book that captures an era perfectly and I look forward to reading the sequel Shadows of the Workhouse when it is released later this year.
Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction. Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns (including one who was accused of stealing jewels from Hatton Garden) and the camaraderie of the midwives with whom she trained. Funny, disturbing and incredibly moving, Jennifer's stories bring to life the colourful world of the East End in the 1950s.