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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times, by Jennifer Worth

Call The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard TimesCall The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered this book after watching a season of the PBS series "Call the Midwife" and noticed in the credits that it was based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth. I figured that the book is always better than the movie...right? So I was pleased to find this book at the library.

I have enjoyed the show and now the book in different ways. The stories in the show are based on the original stories, but the directors certainly have taken plenty of artistic license. It has been fun to experience these stories in a different, visual way, though.

This book details the experiences of a young midwife living at a convent with midwife-nuns in the slums of East London in the 1950s. England had recently begun socialized medicine, and nurses had daily rounds to homes of the elderly, diabetics for insulin injections, pregnant women who regularly gave birth at home, and others. The time, people, and culture are described in delightful detail that made me feel like I was there with the author.

I enjoyed the book immensely but offer my hearty recommendation with a couple of caveats: 1) Sex and the birth process are described clinically and in a matter-of-fact way. Women who've had children will not likely be squeamish with these kinds of details, but others might be. (Same with the TV show.) With teenage boys in the house, I would be uncomfortable leaving this lying around for them to pick up and browse through. 2) Thanks to other reviewers, I skipped the chapter "Cable Street," which details the initiation of an impoverished homeless girl into prostitution in a gang rape scene. Her story, which goes for a few chapters, was horrific enough without my having to read the details in that one chapter.

Despite these reservations, I really enjoyed this memoir. The book also has a lovely arc in showing Jennifer Worth's progression in her faith and relationship with God. I don't mind so much that being left out of the show, because I think it would be difficult to depict such a personal and intimate journey on film. I'm definitely a Jennifer Worth fan and plan on reading her further memoirs.

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