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The Midwife's Confession - Diane Chamberlain

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Diane Chamberlain / 432 pages / Book published 2011-06-17 by Mira Books

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    7 Reviews
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      10.03.2013 00:15
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      Outstanding book

      ==Synopsis==

      Tara and Emerson's world is turned upside down when their close friend and well respected midwife Noelle commits suicide. The three women have been good friends since university, and the death comes out of the blue and with no warning signs. As they are clearing out Noelle's house, Emerson stumbles across some boxes of paperwork which give some clues as to the reason behind the suicide.

      This sends Tara and Emerson on a mission to find out the reason behind Noelle's suicide. As they uncover more mysterious findings about their friend, they begin to wonder whether they knew her at all. What was the reason behind Noelle's suicide? What are the secrets she's been carrying round for years? Will her friends get to the bottom of the story? Can this possibly have a happy ending........

      ==My Thoughts==

      Right from the beginning we are told on the blurb that this book isn't going to be light reading as such. With the opening chapters involving the discovery of Noelle's body by her close friend Emerson, I did wonder what I had let myself in for. Luckily, the story is told in such a way that it manages to tug at the heart strings without being morbid or depressing. Although there are revelations and events in the book which made me feel a bit sad for the characters, I mostly felt engaged by the story and the way it was told.

      The style of the novel is that each chapter describes events from a different character's viewpoint. So at the beginning of each chapter we are told whose viewpoint we are following, where they are, and what year. This sounds like it's going to be confusing, and I did wonder how easy I would find it to follow the story as I tend to read in short bursts rather than for prolonged periods, but the story is so absorbing it's very easy to pick up and put down. I also found myself making more time to read this book, since I was enjoying it so much, and also curious as to the outcome.

      We are first introduced to Emerson and Tara, which makes sense as these are the main characters. Following Noelle's death, we see things from the outside from other people's perspective. This maintains an air of mystery about Noelle, and we are as in the dark about her motives as the other characters. As the novel progresses, however, we get some insight into Noelle's character, with some chapters told from Noelle's perspective in an earlier time setting. This allows us insight into her past, her mysterious life, and the motives for her suicide. The reader is privy to information the characters in the book aren't, so it's a case of seeing how the story will unfold. That's not to say the reader knows it all from the start, as there are plenty of twists and turns and further revelations throughout the book which I certainly didn't see coming.

      The character formation is strong, and I had a good sense from the beginning of the book of what personality traits the main characters had. Tara and Emerson are very likeable, and despite being quite different they have been there for each other through thick and thin. Their daughters Jenny and Grace are typical teenagers, and although sometimes they don't come across as overly nice, particularly Grace, they are just being typical teenagers and later in the book we get more insight into their vulnerability and depth of feeling. I won't name all the characters as that would give too much away, but I will just say that I felt empathy with each and every one of them. Even Noelle, with her poor judgement and regretful decisions earlier in her life, had me feeling a bit sorry for her as we all know how easy it can be to mess up sometimes, yet the consequences of her decisions must have haunted her all her life, to the point that she couldn't bear it anymore.

      Although the author is good at letting us in on the emotions and personalities of each character, there isn't much in the way of description to allow us to form a physical picture of them. I think this is purely because there are so many characters, it's quite a lot of information to take in as well as following the plot from several viewpoints. Every now and then I would read something about one of the main characters having short brown hair, when in my head I had pictured them with long blonde hair. I was actually convinced one of the main characters was black until I read the description of her "pale skin". This didn't prevent me from forming an attachment to the characters, however, but I did find it strange that I couldn't picture any of the characters' physical features accurately, as it meant I couldn't bring complete realism to the characters.

      The switching between characters and timescales is handled incredibly well by the author. No sooner had I turned the page and thought "Uh oh" as I realised we were being introduced to yet another important character, than I found myself absorbed in the latest character's version of events. The switch between characters is frequent enough that we don't lose sight of the main story, or forget what went on earlier in the book. I didn't find the number of characters overwhelming as such, but I think because we hear from each one in first person, it allows the reader to form a relationship with each of the characters, and feel empathy for them. I found this a little exhausting, because for the duration I was reading this book it felt like I was carrying five other people's emotional baggage around with me alongside my own!

      The conclusion of this book was really pleasing for me, and I realise that sounds a bit trite when considering the subject matter! However, as the different characters' stories all come together at the end to reveal the climatic conclusion, I found myself having those "Ah, now I get it" moments when I pieced together earlier events and information given and saw the relevance of them. The supporting information is given to the reader in such a subtle way, it would be difficult for the most discerning reader to figure out what is coming. Although I had worked out a little of the mystery, which was hinted at by the title "The Midwife's Confession", I was far off working out the details, which meant I was hooked right to the end of the book.

      ==Would I recommend?==

      As you can probably guess, I would whole heartedly recommend this book. Although you might think by the title that it's primarily aimed at women, there is no reason a man wouldn't enjoy this book as it is a step up from chick lit falling more in the mystery/suspense category. Without giving too much away, I should mention that it might not be easy reading for anyone who is pregnant or for new mothers. Although it's not distressing as such, I think the subject matter has the potential to be a little raw for certain categories.

      (Review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)

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        03.07.2012 21:24
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        A novel full of secrets, twists and turns.

        After reading The Lost Daughter by Diane Chamberlain, I went on the hunt for more of her novels. I came across this one 'The Midwife's Confession', I was drawn to it straight away, mostly by the title, as I thought it sounded intresting and the picture of the little baby shoes on the cover made my heart melt.

        Diane Chamberlain is an American award winning author, writing adult fiction book,aimed more at the female market. Before starting out as an author Diane Chamberlaine was a psychotherapist, which I feel influences the way she writes, (that being a good thing). She also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

        Her books come with a 'As good as Jodi Picolt or get your money back' guarantee. Although I understand why this has been put on there, as Jodi Picolt fans will be drawn to it, I feel Diane Chamberlain really is a great author in her own right now, and feel its time to let this one go.

        Her books focus on all types of relationships and from the few book I have read tend to involve secrets and what happens when they come out.

        The Midwife's Confession. The book is based around Noelle, Tara and Emerson. The three women have been friends from university and have a very strong friendship, which has seen them through most things. Noelle is a midwife with a unique personality and take on life. Tara has just lost her husband Sam, and is struggling with grief,and raising teenage daughter Grace. Emerson is a busy mum to teenage daughter Jenny, wife to Ted, and running a busy busines called Hot!. Emerson also has a very sick Grandfather. Teenage daughter Grace and Jenny are also the best of friends.

        The book begins in present time (2010). Where we find Noelle struggling to cope and feeling as if she has a huge weight on her shoulders leading to her committing suicide. This happens very early in the book. Noelle's suicide shocks everyone. Tara and Emerson refuse to let the fact Noelle killed herself go, and while cleaning out Noelle's house they begin to search for answers.
        What they find will change everything. A half written letter that was never meant to be read, leaves the two women with more questions than answers. The letter reveals a terrible secret that Noelle has been carrying around with her and keeping from everyone for years. The two friends are left wondering if they really knew Noelle at all. As they dig deeper into the truth, they keep uncovering more of Noelle's secrets. Tara and Emerson go on a journey throughout the book into Noelle's real life, and work together to uncover what really happened the day Noelle changed forever. The answers they find will not only change their lives for ever, but their families, friends and even the life of a complete stranger and her family.

        The book is plit into 3 parts. Part one is split from the diferent points of view of Noelle, Emerson and Tara. Part 2 again follows the three women, but we are also introduced to Anna, who although is a stranger at this point, her story and point of view become very important as the book goes on. Part 3 follows all previous 4 woman and Grace (Tara's daughter).
        Each chapter is told from one woman's point of view. For the most part the book is set in present day (2010), but some chapters jump back in to the past. This is however clearly written in italics at the start of each chapter and therefore is easy to follow.

        I really enjoyed this book. I was a little worried after enjoying The Lost Daughter so much, if this would live up to what I expected, but I wasn't let down. I was hooker on this book from the start. A suicide as an opening to a book, was very unusual, dramatic and captivating. I found the book always kept me guessing, and just when I thought I could guess what was about to happen, there was another twist or bombshell to think about. This kept going throughout the book, and there is a big twist at the end that I just didn't see coming. The actual Midwife's confession comes out fairly early on in the book, and the rest of the book is more about the details and how this confession coming out effects those left to deal with it, and how they go about finding out the whole truth.
        I liked how the book was based both in the present day and in the past, as it allowed me to get to know the characters and how their pasts have shaped their future, especially Noelle.
        The book features so many different relationships, from friends, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, to even lovers. As a reader you are also let into the private moments, and the relationships that the other characters are unaware of, including Noelle's friendship with Tara's husband Sam.
        Many issues and emontions are covered throughout, including death, illness and grief, adding yet another dimension to the book, and allowing readers to relate to the characters. The book is written with everyones emontions/feelings taken into consideration, and even though we may not agree with things people have done, we get to see things from their point of view, and can't help but sympathise.
        I also liked how we got to know Anna as well. I enjoyed learning her back story and am glad Anna's character wasn't just brought in as background character. I feel getting to know Anna and her family really helped shape the outcome of the book.
        My only real negative about the book, was that I was left wanting more. Once we have the answer and the big twist at the end, it's only briefly mention at the end about what happened next. I could have read another novel on the outcome of this alone.

        Overall another great read fromDiane Cha,berlaine. A novel that keeps you guessing. I would highly recommend this book. The book is easy to read, and some of the chapters are quiet short, so you can squezze a chapter or two in even when short on time. I have since started reading another Chamberlaine novel called The Shadow Wife so keep your eyes peeled for a review on that one soon.

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          21.06.2012 19:18
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          Great read

          This is a review of the 2011 book "the Midwife's Confession" by Diane chamberlain. I swapped it on readitswapit website as I had read another book (The lost daughter) by the same author and enjoyed it. The cover of the book offers a money back guarantee that you will find this book as good as Jodi Picoult.

          A bit about
          The book runs with a limited amount of characters, which makes it easier to understand. Best friends Tara and Emerson have to organise the other part of their trio's funeral (for Noelle, who was a midwife). Their daughters Grace and Jenny are also best friends. Tara's husband Sam died a year back and Emerson is married to Ted (who doesn't feature much) and Ian is the family lawyer who Sam worked with before he died.
          Noelle's death is mysterious, basically she committed suicide (this is in the first few pages) and Tara and Emerson decided to dig a bit deeper to find out about their close friend's life. A can of worms opens and it is impossible to put the worms back in the can now. A mystery over a missing baby that Noelle delivered in the 90s comes to the forefront of the investigation and the clues bring them closer to the answer.

          Family
          The book really examines family relationships and family secrets that are kept quiet for years until one day they have to come out. Tara and Grace are still deeply grieving for Sam and this really affects the relationship the two share with each other. Some of the time the children seem ungrateful for their parents and at other times, they count their blessings at how lucky they are. Pretty normal I guess!

          Location and time line
          Most of the book is set in Wilmington, North Carolina and some of it is in the next state of Washington DC. The chapters are narrated by different characters and the time line jumps between the present and past. Each chapter is helpfully headed by the name of the narrator, location and date. This helps the reader to piece together the mystery as it unravels.

          Price
          My book has a sticker on it promoting two books for £8 but as I swapped it, I don't know where it came from. There are 20 copies available to swap currently on readitswapit so it shouldn't be too hard to get hold of a copy.

          My thoughts
          I loved reading this book although some of the subject is harrowing and emotional to read. Whilst it is fiction, it is still touching over how sad the missing person's register is and whilst it is not a frequent occurrence, stolen babies is such an awful thing to think about. I di guess around half way through the book what the outcome was going to be and I was not exactly right but close!

          Final word
          Anyone who likes reading intriguing books will probably enjoy reading this one. I could imagine it making a good film. It is nothing like "Call the Midwife" in case you are wondering, the detail on the actual birthing process is quite vague and so not at all gory. I can think of several people who might enjoy reading this book so won't have any problem passing it on. I don't think it's a difficult read, it is easy to follow and full of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing.

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          29.08.2011 18:45
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          Give it a go!

          The Midwife's Confession was bought for me as a gift. My friend said she decided to buy it for me because she knew that at one point I'd wanted to be a midwife. It never happened, I trained as a journalist instead.

          Anyway, when I received the book I wasn't dying to read it, mainly because I'm not a fan of chick lit as a genre. However, one quiet Sunday afternoon I decided to give it a go... and I was sucked into the story instantly.

          I believe that the author - Diane Chamberlain - was a psychiatrist is a former life and think this shines through, because the characters are, in general, well put together and complex.

          Noelle is probably the central character, but we don't actually get to meet her in the present as she commits suicide at the beginning of the book. However, we learn about her retrospectively and through the characters of Emerson and Tara - her two best friends. The three women met at college and stayed close ever since.

          The book revolves around Emerson and Tara who are desperately trying to come to terms with Noelle's death. They also discover a secret, which they attempt to get to the bottom of... and in the process they discover that they didn't really know Noelle at all...

          Personally I love Chamberlain's writing style and each chapter leaves you wanting more. There are lots of twists and turns in the plot and lots of revelations along the way. However, I didn't think the book was predictable and I didn't guess the big plot twist until it was about to be revealed.

          I did find it hard to empathise with the character of Noelle, because in my mind she makes some unforgivable decisions, but I liked Tara and Emerson and I was intrigued to get to the bottom of Noelle's story. I remained hooked right until the end.

          Overall I thoroughly recommend this novel. It's a chick lit with substance. Five stars.

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            19.08.2011 05:07
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            a good light read

            Tara, Emerson and Noelle have been friends since they met at college and even in middle age they remain close, they are so close that Tara and Emerson both had midwife Noelle assist with their pregnancies and births of their daughters who are now teenagers. When Noelle commits suicide the other two women are left reeling, they had no idea that their friend was unhappy or had any problems. A cryptic note found amongst Noelle's belongings makes them realise that their friend had been keeping secrets and her life was not as it seemed. They need to follow the clues left in the note to find out what led Noelle to take her own life but this detective work uncovers secrets which may be best left buried. I don't want to give away any more details of the plot as it will spoil the story for any readers but this is a real page turner with many twists and turns in the story. It combines a detective story with family dramas in a way which will have the reader hooked and wanting to know what will happen next.

            "The Midwife's Confession" is a book where each chapter is told through the voices of the different characters both in the present and from periods in the past. Those characters are Tara, Emerson, Noelle, teenage Grace and Anna whose only child has leukaemia. I like this style of writing but it did take me a while to get my head around who all the different characters were so it was confusing for the first third or so of the book. I think that the problem was that a couple of the voices were middle aged women talking about the same subject so it was difficult to tell them apart.

            Noelle was the best character in the book; even though she had died her voice came across loud and clear. She was a complex character, she was a devoted midwife who was a devoted midwife who did a lot of charity work and loyal friend yet had a lot of dark secrets buried inside. I can't say I was as impressed with all of the other characters, having several characters who are all integral to the plot means that there is not as much of a chance to let them develop beyond the surface. The book explores the bonds between friends and family and what happens when those relationships are put under pressure.

            I am a fan of Diane Chamberlain's books; she has been described as being similar to Jodi Picoult but I find her books to be far better written, less sensational and without the complicated sub plots. I did enjoy "The Midwife's Confession" but I did not enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed some of Chamberlain's other books. Maybe it is just because the books all seem a bit samey and this one feels more rushed than earlier novels or maybe I have just read too many books in one style and have now grown bored. I refuse to read any more Picoult books after growing bored of many similar novels, I keep hoping each of Chamberlain's novels I pick up will be as good as "The Bay at Midnight" but none of them have lived up to the standard of the first book of hers I read.


            "The Midwife's Confession" is a good light read which will keep you entertained but it is missing the spark to make it a really good book.

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              27.07.2011 13:14
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              Secrets from the past come roaring into the present

              I am quite surprised there aren't more reviews of this title on here as I was under the impression that it was a well known book I was coming to quite late. Since it appears it's not, I have decided my job is to encourage you to get your hands on a copy, as it is quite simply a stunning tale that has mass market appeal. This is important for me too, since I am in the process of filling our family Kindle which mother and sister will also be taking on trips, so it makes sense to buy books I think they might like too.

              Noelle is a midwife, and Tara and Emerson are both mothers from within her patch, but their link goes much further than that. Having met when they were all at university together, the three form a tight bond that nothing can break....until now. Noelle dies as the book begins, but Tara and Emerson barely have time to grieve before they discover a piece of information they'd really rather not have known. Noelle had a secret - a massive, life-changing secret - and has left behind evidence that her overwhelming urge, but inability, to confess has been wearing her down for some time. With the finer details of the story still unclear, the two women set out to uncover exactly what happened on that fateful day that changed Noelle's life forever.

              I was interested in this book because of the connection to the world of healthcare, but this isn't the main focus of the story so even if you don't work in the same field as I do, don't discount it just yet. Diane Chamberlain is being marketed as another Jodi Picoult and it's easy to see why, because though the courtroom scenes may be missing, the standard drama and compelling twists and turns still feature heavily. If I had to categorise it, though, I'd say it was a story of family and friendship, and the ties that bind and the secrets that destroy. We hear the story from many viewpoints - the women, their daughters, and another unrelated family living far away - but as the story comes to a close all those at first unconnected lines of thought converge with shocking results.

              In some books you are kept guessing until the very end, and this is one of them though you might not think it at first. The midwife's "confession" comes quite early on so the story shifts away from what has happened to the ongoing ramifications of it, and it's these that keep you hooked. Even towards the end when you might think you have it all figured out, there are last minute twists that you could never have anticipated from even a few chapters earlier.

              I thought this was an outstanding book. The writing captured me from the first scene and though the story jumped back and forth through time it was never confusing, and always engaging. It also allows us to get to know the Noelle of the past now the Noelle of the present has gone. Despite the main secret being revealed all in one go, the various threads that feed into it are delivered in slivers here and there so you still have to make the connections in your mind to try to 'get there' before the characters. And though I did at some times, the women were never far behind, and not annoyingly slow and dense as in some books.

              The story is a poignant one that filled me with emotion. It was hard not to empathise with the characters, including Noelle. And, considering her horrific act, that's saying something about the way the characters are developed and come alive through the pages. I felt involved in the lives of the women, rather than a mere bystander, and by the end I was torn between sympathy for these fictitious characters, and relief that I could walk away with my own life untouched.

              I've said before that I do most of my reading here at the gym, which means I have to put down a book when my workout ends and it's time to walk home. If I'd been reading this in bed I'm sure it would have kept me up for hours as I'd have gone on for just a few more pages...and then a few more, keen to know what happened next. For me the easiest time to stop was when the year of the story changed as this marked a natural place to pause, but even then I wanted to know what was coming as the story was superbly structured with relevant information from the past coming in at just the right time to either answer a pressing question, or add yet another dimension to the tale.

              It's hard to say whether this is a realistic story in the sense that it could happen and go unnoticed for so long. But in the wake of the horrors at a certain hospital I used to work at which have been making the UK news over the last few weeks, it now suddenly doesn't seem so farfetched after all. There is perhaps one feature - the coma - which could be seen as a convenience too many for the story, but if you accept that as something that could happen, the rest is plain sailing.

              The story is quite a long one but didn't seem like it was being stretched out. There are some sidelines - teen loves, adult affairs - that aren't critical to the overall story, but do add a further layer of understanding to what makes the characters tick.

              This was my first Diane Chamberlain book and since I got hold of it a month ago, I've gone on to download a further 2 in quick succession. Her older work isn't as polished as this one, and I have to say my first read remains my favourite, but her others are definitely more than readable too with that distinct style and the clearly trademarked hook-you-in-and-keep-you-guessing approach. Therefore my advice would be to start with this one, and then move on to the others.

              Currently priced at £3.99 for the new paperback with free delivery from Amazon, I purchased the alternative - the Kindle format, for £3.49. I thought it was a great, timeless read that has wide appeal, and I'm sure my Kindle co-sharers will like it as much as I did. It's an easy to read story with a super plot and lots of suspense to keep you turning the pages (or, on the Kindle, clicking the button).

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                05.04.2011 12:32
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                chamberlain does it again

                Noelle, Tara and Emerson are three women with a shared history and long friendship. When Noelle dies unexpectedly at the start of the book the other two will soon discover that their friend isn't the person that they thought she was at all. As they sort out her house revelation follows revelation and they find out that the past isn't what they believed it to be. Both women will find their whole lives being flung into chaos as they have to re-examine what they thought they knew. What exactly has driven Noelle to commit suicide and was she really the selfless deliverer of babies with a wont for doing good works that they thought she was? As the book progresses through various twists and turns all becomes clearer until, ultimately the truth is revealed.

                The story is told in the first person with various characters, including Noelle herself in flashbacks to the past, and Tara's daughter Grace and Emerson's daughter Jenny taking centre stage in different chapters. It's a format familiar to lovers of the works of Jodi Picoult, but which Diane Chamberlain has made her own here. I thought that the story flowed really well; this book is a real page turner, you really want to know what the truth is and the paced is maintained up until the very last page as Noelle's friends have to turn detective to find out what the half scribbled confession Noelle left behind really means. The relationship between the women in this book seems very real and believable at all times, they are easy for the reader to relate to and the dialogue is written in a very natural way.

                I didn't find that I had to suspend belief too often in this story, despite the fact that what is revealed is actually quite shocking, and wasn't exactly what I guessed a confession could be. The plot is quite complex at times, there is a lot going on here with Tara coming to terms with having lost her husband and Jenny and Emerson coming of age and re-evaluating their relationship with their mothers, as well as other characters who knew the many different sides of Noelle helping to move the story on. That said all the different elements of this story really add to the plot - this is the kind of book that book clubs across the land are sure to love as there is plenty to discuss and much to think about.

                Overall this book is an easy and intelligent read which is well written and full of intrigue and interest. If you have liked, as I have, previous Diane Chamberlain titles this novel won't disappoint, new readers of Chamberlain will find themselves hooked into the story from the first page. This author really seems to be going from strength to strength, and this book is one that I personally would recommend, it's compelling, interesting and shocking all at once and I really enjoyed it.


                (shorter version of this review on amazon also in my name)

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