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Modern History Brought To Life
Call The Midwife - Jennifer Worth
Member Name: wigglylittleworm
Call The Midwife - Jennifer Worth
Advantages: Captures an era perfectly
Disadvantages: Some of the birth stories a little graphic
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.
Summary: A fantastic book
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