by Jennifer Worth
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Length: 12 Hours and 2 Minutes
Series: The Midwife Trilogy #1
Published by HighBridge Company
on September 10th 2012
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An unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman
At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London's East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can't speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city's seedier side-illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.
Finding Call the Midwife was exciting for 3 reasons. One, I found an awesome new reader. Two, I found an awesome story. And three, now I have something to watch on Netflix!
If there is one thing I have learned in 2014, it is that I love narrative nonfiction. I completely adore it. Coupled with a fantastic narrator, a good narrative nonfiction book can be a thing hard to put down. Call the Midwife was a thing very hard to put down. Jennifer Worth’s life working as a midwife and nurse in post-World War II London, in the slums no less, is nothing short of fascinating.
Oh dear. I’m gushing. Let’s get into what the book is about, exactly, and why you should read (or listen to!) it.
As I said, Call the Midwife is about Jennifer Worth’s years of working in the London slums as a midwife. She meets such a colorful cast of characters, almost exactly the sort of people you would expect. My favorite was the Spanish woman with the English husband. Neither one spoke the same language, yet they had 24 children together. 24. (to quote: “Quite suddenly, with blinding insight, the secret of their blissful marriage was revealed to me. She couldn’t speak a word of English and he couldn’t speak a word of Spanish.”) Wow!! Right? What!?! Jenny meets prostitutes, dock workers, cockney barrowmen, and more. And oh, the nuns. THE NUNS. Just like in the Sound of Music, you can’t help but adore the nuns. Sister Monica Joan, a 90-year-old nun who is a wee bit batty is a delight.
I absolutely loved Jenny’s voice. She doesn’t pull punches, but tells it like it is/was. Life was hard in the slums. Women couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, or the hospital, when the time came to give birth.
“Obstetricians also doubted the female intellectual capacity to grasp the anatomy and physiology of childbirth, and suggested that they could not therefore be trained. But the root fear was – guess what? – you’ve got it, but no prizes for quickness: money. Most doctors charged a routine one guinea for a delivery. The word got around that trained midwives would undercut them by delivering babies for half a guinea! The knives were out.”
These midwives were desperately needed and did so much to help turn the tide of death for those women, and the babies, alike. She goes into the history of the times. How the pill wasn’t introduced until the 1960s and the changes that introduces:
“The Pill was introduced in the early 1960s and modern woman was born. Women were no longer going to be tied to the cycle of endless babies; they were going to be themselves. With the Pill came what we now call the sexual revolution. Women could, for the first time in history, be like men, and enjoy sex for its own sake. In the late 1950s we had eighty to a hundred deliveries a month on our books. In 1963 the number had dropped to four or five a month. Now that is some social change!”
Jenny doesn’t sugarcoat it childbirth. The blood, the pain, the smells…poor Jenny had a sensitive stomach. Yet, she soldiers on and through her one comes to appreciate the lives of the East End women and the way they all soldiered through their rough lives in the slums. Through it all, and most amazingly, Jenny never loses her humor, her wit, or the knowledge that each child is a stunning miracle, a gift from God, and something to be treasured.
Nicola Barber is the narrator for all of the books in the Midwife Trilogy. It was my first experience with her. I only wish I had found her much sooner. She has a marvelous, soothing voice, with just the right amount of British accent and perfect for the voice of Jenny. She sounds young, but not too young, and she does a marvelous job of changing her voice for different characters. She gained a hardcore fan with me. If you find you can’t get into reading the book, definitely give the audio a try. Or, just give the audio a try. You will not regret it.
Bits I liked:
“Their devotion showed me there were no versions of love there was only… Love. That it had no equal and that it was worth searching for, even if that search took a lifetime.”
“Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.”
“Whoever heard of a midwife as a literary heroine? Yet midwifery is the very stuff of drama. Every child is conceived either in love or lust is born in pain, followed by joy or sometimes remorse. A midwife is in the thick of it, she sees it all.”
“Why aren’t midwives the heroines of society that they should be? Why do they have such a low profile? They ought to be lauded to the skies, by everyone.”