Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

This is a memoir written by a woman who was a midwife in the poor East End of London in the 1950s. And what an enthralling and exceptional memoir it is! Midwifery really fascinates me, and I’ve been trying to learn more about it, so this was just the right book for me. Though there are a few overarching story lines and individuals that appear throughout the book, each chapter stands relatively on its own as a story of an individual woman’s birthing process, and the whole situation and culture surrounding it. The East End was a very poor area, and the conditions in which women gave birth were often what we would today call primitive. As I read, I was struck by the fact that this was ONLY fifty years ago. Yes, in one sense 50 years is a lot of time, but I suppose from my age and culture and situation in life it’s easy for me to completely forget that most of the world’s women for most of time have given birth at home, without “modern” conveniences, medicines, and procedures. From the greatest of successes to the worst of tragedies, this book covers shows it all. Worth wrote this book nearly 40 years after the fact, and I think the subtlety and maturity of age comes through in her writing. The characters and descriptions are vivid, and so many times I thought, “Gosh, I wish I could have met that woman.” It’s a fascinating memoir, and well worth the read. 

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