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Call the Midwife' is a most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history. It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife in the East End of London in the 1950's and is a graphic portrayal of the quite appalling conditions that the East Enders endured....

Title : The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780143116233
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 340 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times Reviews

  • Corinne
    2019-03-07 14:43

    Having given birth with the support of a midwife three times, when I heard about this one, I knew I had to make time to read it. The Midwife is the memoir of Jennifer Worth (“Jenny”) and her experiences in the East End Slums of post-war London. I think three things come together to make this a very interesting book.First, the voice of Jenny. She is candid and real - her storytelling doesn't sugar-coat her experiences or her mistakes. She never pretends that the East End was anything other than what it was: a hard place to live where people still found things worth living for. She shares her prejudices with us and shows us how they crumbled as she became more intimate with the people she cared for, both as a midwife and as a nurse. Life in the convent, its routines and relationships - Jenny relates these things with an unaffected and honest candor. Every once and a while the narrative felt a bit jumpy (moving between time periods, etc.), but because I was interested wherever she took me, it didn't bother me.The second thing is that the time and place is so narrow - we get such an intimate slice of a group of people, their trappings and failures and the things that make them tick. Some of their vices are described in uncomfortable detail and you can imagine how hopeless and degrading life could be. She teaches us to appreciate "Cockneys" and there is even an appendix so we can read Cockney and understand what they are saying :) As much as this book is about being a midwife, I also think it stands well as a cultural study of a group of people that no longer exist in the same sense.The third thing is the art of midwifery itself and her journey as a midwife. I caught myself smiling while reading some chapters, there is so much joy - and other chapters brought me to tears and had me biting my lip with worry. She was in the thick of the struggle between life and death that all mothers experience as they bring a new one into the world. And I think there is a nice balance between medical information and the more extensive personal stories that make Jenny's neighborhood vibrant, full of characters and their histories. She never pretends that it was easy or glamorous work, and sometimes the conditions she worked in were downright disgusting. I kept having the thought: this was REAL. It was her LIFE. Women gave BIRTH this way, lived this way - medical science was so different and I think this memoir gives a fascinating perspective of a way of life that is no longer, as well as a flavor for the satisfaction that comes from working with pregnant women.It's not lyrical or dreamy - it's a down-in-the-gutters look at an ages old profession. I loved it.

  • Alaine
    2019-02-25 12:01

    I'm writing this as I'm just about halfway through so I may revise this later. For now, oh man. I have some issues with this book. I started reading it after I watched all of the first season of Call the Midwife on Netflix. I loved the show and got excited to see they were based on actual books. Maybe my opinion is tainted by the fact that the author states she was trying to be the James Herriot of midwives. But as I've been reading, I've had the impression in many places that she was trying to copy his style, and failed. James Herriot writes in an easily followed conversational style. Jennifer Worth throws out obscurely large words that I have to look up on a regular basis. I have a decent vocabulary but "internecine"?! Just thrown into the middle of an otherwise conversational style, it's incongruous. I enjoy reading the cockney dialect and learning English terms for things but these ten dollar words look like trying too hard, and they're annoying.I realize Ms. Worth is a product of her time and I am trying very hard to not judge her unfairly using my time and culture as a standard. But it's difficult to ignore the ethnocentric comments sprinkled throughout the book. She described an impoverished immigrant woman as looking like a Spanish princess. Making the foreign person into something exotic is objectifying, and keeps her in the "other" category. When we got to little Mary, the teenage Irish prostitute, she is described first as a Celtic princess, then as maybe the product of an Irish "navvy" (manual laborer) and then says maybe they're the same thing. Alright. You need to stop right there, lady.I don't think James Herriot would have had a graphic description of group sex, including blow jobs. I understand this was a section of the book about prostitution but that scene really seemed to not fit the tone of the book up to that point. It felt gratuitous.The description of the henpecked husband is just one of many examples of internalized misogyny that got on my nerves. Sometimes the lines between class and gender blurred, but it was always clear Ms. Worth felt above these people. You can't ramble at length about how very much a poor, sick woman repulses you and end by saying, "Well, I'm not here to judge." Because you just did, for many pages. This makes for an uncomfortable read.There is also plenty of romanticizing the past, talking about how no one had to lock their doors and when girls got pregnant, their men rose to the challenge and married them. She doesn't come out and say that she thought it was better that way, but I think it's implied. And that bothers me. All that said, it is an interesting read and I am having a hard time putting it down. I plan to finish it and read the others in the series. I just have some issues. Giving it three stars because I am actually enjoying reading it for the most part. It's not perfection, I doubt I'll want to re-read it, and it's definitely not James Herriot. James Herriot made it sound like tramping around in a freezing cold barn armpit deep into a cow's vagina was still somehow a good time. Worth does not have that skill.Edit: This is where I got angry. Really angry. In a passage describing how married women were "free" to cheat on their husbands because a pregnancy wouldn't be as difficult as for a single woman, Worth writes:I have often felt that the situation is loaded against men. Until recently, when genetic blood tests became possible, how could any man know that his wife was carrying his child? The poor man had no other assurance of paternity than his wife's word. Unless she is virtually locked up, he can have no control over her activities during the day while he is at work.Those are some seriously loaded words. We are talking about a time and place in which impoverished women are forced to carry baby after baby because there is no reliable birth control. Husbands simply refused to wear condoms, and wives were expected to submit. Legally, there was no such thing as a rape occurring within marriage, but we know that it happened. We know that there was domestic violence against women and children, and Worth mentions the impossibility of East End mothers leaving home to work. They were up to the gills in children and laundry. It wasn't just life circumstances keeping women down in this time; it was powerful social control, such as happens when women of higher, more influential, classes, make casual comments about locking wives up.I wanted to read the rest of the series but I think I can probably find another book to read about life in the workhouses. Watch the show. The show is better.

  • Petra X
    2019-03-25 13:39

    I read the companion book to this last year and hadn't been able to get this in the US, but now I am in the UK with my terminally-ill mother I took the opportunity to find it. You wouldn't think that the world of the 50s was so different as it is now, but this depiction of the 50s, of bombed-out London, health care where antibiotics were the new miracle drug and children played safely in the streets because there were no cars is truly another world. This, though, is also the story of a young nurse living in and operating from an inner city convent of nuns dedicated to midwifery, good cooking, the odd glass of wine and full of the most eccentric characters. Its a wonderful book, history, memoir and a full of cockney humour.

  • Diane
    2019-02-25 18:58

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I liked the setting -- 1950s London -- but I had been wary of reading 300-plus pages about pregnancies and birthing and midwifery. In movies and TV shows, for instance, I hatehatehate childbirth scenes. It's always the same: The mother cries out in pain, the father looks anxious, the doctor sternly gives orders, and then presto! A sweet and wrinkled baby is handed to the parents.* But "Call the Midwife" (which is also the name of the 2012 BBC series based on the books; the original title was just "The Midwife") was thankfully more than just a collection of childbirth stories. I ended up loving the social history of that postwar period. Jennifer Worth moved into a convent and became a midwife in the slums of London's East End, and she had good stories about the women she met and the trials of daily life for the lower classes. "I regret that I have not been able to get to know the men of the East End. But it is quite impossible. I belong to the women's world, to the taboo subject of childbirth. The men are polite and respectful to us midwives, but completely withdrawn from any familiarity, let alone friendship. There is a total divide between what is called men's work and women's work. So, like Jane Austen, who in her writing never recorded a conversation between two men alone, because as a woman she could not know what exclusively male conversation would be like, I cannot record much about the men of Poplar, beyond superficial observation."There was a particularly fascinating (and disturbing) section on prostitution in the area, which Worth had to deal with when she befriended a young girl who had been lured into a brothel. Worth also mentions the horrible workhouses in London, which she learned about while caring for a traumatized patient who had lived there for decades. When Worth asked an older nun about the workhouses, she was told: "Humph. You young girls know nothing of recent history. You've had it too easy, that's your trouble." I think Worth's later memoirs talk more about this, so I expect to hear many more horror stories.It was especially interesting to see the discussion on how much England's National Health Service changed health care for the people. Worth frequently comments that certain medical procedures had previously not been available or affordable to the lower classes. Besides the rich history, there were also amusing stories of Worth's fellow nurses and nuns. One of my favorite characters was nicknamed Chummy (played by the hilarious Miranda Hart on the BBC series) and whenever she was involved a story, I couldn't help but smile at her earnestness, which usually manifested itself in clumsiness. There was also a deliciously batty old nun named Sister Monica Joan who says things like: "Mars and Venus are in alignment... The static forces, the convergence of the fluid with the solid, the descent of the hexagon as it passes through the ether. This is a unique time to be alive. So exciting. The little angels clap their wings." I listened to this on audio, narrated by Nicola Barber, and it was excellent. She does fantastic voices and accents, and I plan to listen to her read the other two books in the series. *Worth wrote a passage about babies that has stayed with me weeks after I first read it: "The helplessness of the newborn human infant has always made an impression on me. All other mammals have a certain amount of autonomy at birth. Many animals, within an hour or two of birth, are up on their feet and running. Others, at the very least, can find the nipple and suck. But the human baby can't even do that. If the nipple or teat is not actually placed in the baby's mouth and sucking encouraged, the baby would die of starvation. I have a theory that all human babies are born prematurely. Given the human life span -- three score years and ten -- to be comparable with other animals of similar longevity, human gestation should be about two years. But the human head is so big by the age of two that no woman could deliver it. So our babies are born prematurely, in a state of utter helplessness."

  • Chrissie
    2019-03-09 15:58

    I see now that this is the first book of a series: book is fun. You are told astounding stories about the author's years working as a midwife at the Nonnatus House Convent in the Docklands during the 1950s. You meet the wonderful Sister Monica Joan, a somewhat "crazy" ninety year-old nun, Conchita Warren who will give birth to both her twenty-forth and twenty-fifth child, the latter premature of only 28 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds, born during a thick London smog. You will not be able to put the book down during these chapters. You meet a prostitute and here her story. Heart-wrenching. You come to understand the lives of the women of the East End. I promise, you will laugh and cry.The structure of the book is anecdotal, but even I who dislikes short stories, was in no way disappointed. The sisters of the convent become as members of a family, each with their own idiosyncrasies. Each child born is a wonder. And Jennifer, the author, is surprisingly honest about her own weaknesses and failings. I haven't told you a thing about Sister Monica Joan. Her escapades will definitely make you smile and laugh outright. She is something else. The only way to meet her is by reading this book, which I highly recommend.

  • Katrina Noble
    2019-02-23 11:33

    It was an incredible read that was marred by an obscenely disgusting chapter right smack dab in the middle that made me have to question whether I should continue or not. I did continue after skimming past the incredibly gross part and was glad that I did because the remaining stories were very interesting/unique and the final few were inspirational. I just really hated that such a wonderful read had to be almost ruined entirely by a poor editing choice. Granted this was based on real life experiences and memoirs of this woman, but the obscene part was taken too far and had little to do with the overall purpose of the book being women having babies/ motherhood. The scene involved a woman getting taken into prostitution and a show girl and although these were real people this midwife encountered I don't think the description needed to contain all the colorful details- just enough to make the reader pity the girl's plight. Anyway...other than that huge blight on the story, the author was a fabulous story teller and I loved the variety of stories she told from her adventures as a midwife.

  • Juli
    2019-03-09 15:37

    I have had this series by Jennifer Worth sitting on my bookshelves for a year. My sister in law let me borrow the five books -- Call the Midwife, Farewell to East End, In the Midst of Life, Shadows of the Workhouse and Letters to the Midwife -- because I enjoy the PBS television show. I got so tied up in adulting, working, reading new releases for review and other books on my TBR stack, that the books sat there on the shelf. Then I signed up for a 2018 reading challenge.....Beat the Backlist.....that challenges readers to enjoy books published before 2018. I started looking at my shelves....seeing all the lovely books I had intended to read....some have been on my shelves for years waiting for their chance! Since I borrowed the series by Jennifer Worth, I decided Call the Midwife would be first! Knowing how busy the holidays are and to squash any excuses, I found the audiobook version from my local library's digital site. I listened while wrapping presents, putting up the tree, travelling to family's homes, running all worked out perfectly! The book is just as enjoyable as the PBS show! And the show actually follows the book very closely! Excellent!!Jennifer Worth was a midwife in the East end of London in the 1950s. She and the other midwives rode bicycles to prenatal exams, deliveries and other midwife duties, providing care for the poor women that lived there. The book has tales about problem deliveries, dealing with STDs, vermin and other concerns, domestic violence, large families and antiquated opinions about childbirth and women. The book is heart-warming, alarming and nostaligic, all at the same time. Just a lovely read! I don't know how women survived before modern medical care, birth control and increased opportunities that we have now. Plus, changes in public opinion on some things -- like teenage and single mothers. Unwed mothers are no longer shunned in our western culture and left with nothing, their babies sometimes adopted out without consent. I hope that sort of horror never comes back!The audiobook I listened to (HighBridge Company) is just over 12 hours long & unabridged. Nicola Barber narrates. Because of my hearing loss, I sometimes have problems hearing and understanding female voices, but I was able to completely understand Barber's narration. She reads at an even pace with great tone and animation in her voice. I loved the audiobook! I kept seeing Chummy wrecking her bicycle, Fred with his pigs and all the action from the TV series in my head as I listened. :)I will definitely be reading (or listening) to the rest of the series! Especially since my reading goal for the new year is to read more books off my shelves. The Midwife series might be a bit of a cheat.... I borrowed the books months ago. And I hate hate hate it when people borrow my books and take ages to bring them back. So, I am going to return my SIL's books.....and borrow the books online to read. I'm still counting them as backlist off my shelf, but giving them back immediately because they belong to someone else. :) Sort of a cheat -- but not really. :)Given the subject matter....this book does talk a lot about child birth, vaginas, STDs, medical procedures, family problems, etc.....and might not be something to listen to in front of very young children, unless you want to be answering questions. lol. My son is 13...walked into the room, listened for a moment and ducked out of the kitchen. I heard him telling his dad "Oh mom is doing the dishes and listening to some book about vaginas.'' LOLOLOL If all it takes to keep the men out of my kitchen when I'm working is to listen to books on vaginas.....I'm going to find more! ha haAll in all, a great book! I will definitely be reading/listening to the rest of the series!

  • Carol
    2019-03-24 19:53

    Post war London with its bombed out buildings and slums is the setting for much of this interesting and entertaining non-fiction read. There are so many incredible stories in this memoir by Jennifer Worth that it is difficult to pick a favorite, but I loved Chummy with her big ole heart, old-fashioned bicycle and her hero Jack who, as you will see, did become important in his day. Mary's story of prostitution is sad and touching, but Mrs. Jenkin's surrender to the workhouse is just beyond words.While most residents of the war torn Dockland's lived in squalor with detestable sanitation conditions and little hope (OMG the bomb site dump), there is still a nice mix of happy, and funny stories here too. I will not forget Conchita with her 20+ babies or the hilarious antics of Sister Monica Joan.I now have a new respect for the Midwives and Nuns of the 1940-50's era.....they were an extremely knowledgeable and formidable breed with unbelieveably immeasurable responsibilities. Amazing life! Excellent memoir!(one last note: the man they called (turd) was aptly named!)

  • Hayley
    2019-03-08 18:49

    I decided to read this book because I recently watched the BBC/PBS show "Call the Midwife", which is based on the memoirs by Jennifer Worth. I absolutely fell in love with the TV show-- it has a perfect mix of happy and sad, with great characters. That being said, I actually came away from the book "Call the Midwife" feeling a little unsatisfied. I certainly enjoyed the stories that she told. Some were heart-breaking, some sweet or funny. I enjoyed the subplot about Jenny discovering a profound faith in God (though I found her a little unrevealing about other aspects of herself-- who is this man she loved so much?). The religious subplot is, sadly, conspicuously absent from the TV series. Unfortunately, I found that overall the book really lacked a cohesive narrative thread. Maybe that is the nature of memoirs. I also felt a few of the main stories -- particularly Mary's went on a bit long. I was a little disappointed that there weren't more stories about the people she worked with. I did enjoy the book, and I am interested in reading the other two-- but I didn't fall in love with it like the TV series.**Disclaimer** I have seen many other reviews mention this and I will too. The chapter Cable Street can easily be skipped. It takes a look into the life of prostitution and has a shockingly graphic group sex scene. The detail that the author goes into was unnecessary. I can get the idea without the detail. If you read that chapter just be forewarned that that scene is in there.

  • Cindy
    2019-03-17 17:01

    Oh, that I could have six stars to give. . . Having originally been smitten with this wonderful British TV series, I am now head over heels in love with the book. It's the first of a trilogy which pleases me to no end. I must get my book club to read this.One of my favorite chapters is about a friendship between Chummy and an adolescent boy. It's barely touched upon on TV. The luncheon party whereJennifer's three male friends are invited to dine at the convent is pure comic genius. The premature baby chapter is another beautiful story, but honestly, I love them all.Two areas which are explored much more deeply and disturbingly in the book are prostitutes and workhouses.A profoundly moving book that can be placed alongside the finest of contemporary memoirs such as Angela's Ashes and The Glass Castle.

  • Ariel
    2019-03-17 15:40

    I didn't think I had that much interest in 1950's East End London or midwifery but after watching the Netflix show on which these novels are based I can say that I find both to be absolutely fascinating. After watching the first two seasons of Call the Midwife which I love, love, love ( I especially adore Chummy) I wanted to know more about Jennifer Worth's life so I picked up this novel, the first in a series of three. The novel did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the cases in the book were turned into episodes of the show. While some of the characters that I found endearing like Chummy and Jimmy are only briefly mentioned in the book they get a much expounded upon life in the television series. Even though the show stretched some things to make a full length television show out of a relatively short book, the TV show still feels very true to what was related in the book. I know some readers took exception with a vividly described scene of a young girl's induction into prostitution. This was also a very memorable episode arc in the show. I think Jennifer Worth is to be commended for showing how gritty life could really be in the East End. While the show never attempts to shy away from the harsh realities that people were living in at the time, it's Jennifer Worth's words that really drive home the spirit of what the East End women really endured. No matter how harsh the realities are, new life endures, and with it, new hope.The TV show and the book compliment each other perfectly. It is very enjoyable to watch the talented actresses bring to life the memorable people and stories in the book. The casting director did a fantastic job. I highly recommend this series and look forward to viewing season 3 as well as reading Shadows of the Workhouse.

  • Donna
    2019-03-03 12:51

    This was a wonderful memoir of a young woman's new life into the midwifery world. It is quite candid in its approach to midwifery, the struggles of women (mostly the poor), and dawn of modern medicine. It is hard to believe that there were never maternity wards in hospitals until the 1950's. Birth control, or rather the lack of it, was such a dilemma for women who were single, overworked, poor, ill, and/or exhausted.

  • Ayelet Waldman
    2019-03-11 16:00

    I alternated between wishing I'd had this kind of care and thanking God I hadn't.

  • Ferdy
    2019-02-24 11:56

    4.5 stars - SpoilersI absolutely love the tv show, it's brilliant. I'm so obsessed with it that I decided to check out the book even though I never read non-fiction. I'm really glad I picked it up because it turned out to be a fascinating, heartbreaking, and lovely read.Random thoughts:-Summary: Jennifer Worth's memoirs of her time as a midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. There's stories of herself, her patients, and the nuns she lives and works with… And they're all great.-I really enjoyed Jenny's narration, she wasn't particularly nice or likeable but she was engaging and honest. Because Jenny was a nurse and midwife I was expecting her to be more heroine-like… I thought she would be endlessly compassionate, understanding, and helpful. She rarely showed those sort of warm traits, instead she was very much a normal, flawed individual. Most of the time she came across as cold, harsh, and judgmental, she had a tendency to look down at the people she encountered. I didn't mind Jenny's negative thoughts though, I actually found them refreshing in that they were brutally honest. Most people in Jenny's situation would have been just as disgusted and snobby when faced with tramps, poor housing, and weak/desperate people. If her reaction had been all unicorns and rainbows I would have just rolled my eyes. I quite liked that she was no perfect little Mary Sue who tried to save everyone she came in contact with, like the majority she sometimes went above and beyond to help others but most of the time she just did the bare minimum. I guess it was easy to forgive her more negative qualities as she had just as many admirable qualities, she wasn't all good or all bad… Most nurses/midwives are usually depicted as one or the other in literature. It was good how Jenny's memoirs showed nurses/midwives as humans and not cliches.-Pretty much every chapter focused on one of Jenny's patients or work colleagues. It was rather amazing the range of people she met whilst working in the East End, they all had such different stories. Some were depressing to read about whilst others were wonderfully uplifting. Mary, Mrs Jenkins, Conchita's, and Ted/Winnie's story were the most moving and impactful for me. Conchita was amazing to cope with so many pregnancies, and Ted was the best husband and father ever — their stories put a huge smile on my face. But reading about Mary and Mrs Jenkins was so sad and upsetting, they had such terrible hardships and it was clear that they never got a happy ending in life… They deserved much more than what they got.-Sister Monica Joan was meaner than I expected, she was actually kind of a bully to Sister Evangeline. In the tv show she's far more lovable and everything she says and does seems harmless, in this she was horrible.-The workhouses were awful to read about, they sounded worse than prisons. -It did get a bit preachy and religious towards the very end, but I should have expected that since Jenny lived in a convent with a bunch of nuns. -The 1950s East End setting, atmosphere, and people were captured perfectly. The Cockney dialogue was also done well. All in all, a wonderful look into the life of midwives and East Enders in the 1950s. I'll definitely be checking out the sequels.

  • Anna
    2019-03-11 18:51

    Tę książkę pochłonęłam w kilka dni. Napisana prostym, bezpretensjonalnym i autentycznym językiem wciąga czytelnika od pierwszych stron. Jennifer Worth opowiada o swoich pierwszych krokach w zawodzie położnej. Szlify zdobywała pod okiem zakonnic z Domu Św. Nonnata, który mieścił się w najbardziej robotniczej dzielnicy Londynu czyli w dokach. Pocz ątkowo spodziewałam się szczegółowych opisów porodów oraz praktyki i nauki autorki, ale ta książka to coś więcej.Worth opisuje oczywiście porody - wszystkie odbywają się w domu i są bardzo różne: niektóre proste i bezproblemowe, inne skomplikowane. Podczas wszystkich zaskakuje spokój sióstr, które towarzyszą rodzącym w roli położnych. Ich głównym celem jest towarzyszenie kobiecie, nawet jeśli fazy porodu trwają kilkanaście godzin. Nie dążą do przyspieszania, medykalizacji, strasu, roztaczają spokój, pewność i poczucie fachowej opieki.Ciąg dalszy: http://przeczytalamksiazke.blogspot.p...

  • Leslie
    2019-03-19 18:39

    As a series of vignettes about a very interesting profession in a fascinating historical moment, this book was quick and fun to read. However, I would hesitate to recommend it to friends, because it is not very well written.Insight is not Worth's strength. The book is sprinkled with tired old saws about men, women, and their relationships. Her obvious compassion for the poor shines through, but does not lead her to recognize or question many of her internalized prejudices; the way she writes about other racial and ethnic groups, though usually not overtly negative, is particularly discomfiting to today's reader. I found her observations about womanhood and motherhood especially disappointing; her position on the latter is unmitigated sunshine, happiness and womanly fulfillment, which is rather shocking coming from a midwife in an area where, due to their lack of power in relationships and access to contraceptive measures, many women had many more children than they wanted or could afford. Additionally, when Worth wants to make a moral point, she tends to ruin it by showing and then also telling, in very didactic terms. The story of her changing attitude toward religion is also predictable, superficial, and ultimately unsatisfying.That said, she's good at narration and pacing, and the drama of the stories can't be beat. A lot of other reviewers really seemed to dislike the sex scene in the vignette on prostitution, but I didn't think it was out of place (though it was disturbing); she is honest about the conditions of life in that time and place, and coerced prostitution was part of that. Overall, I learned a lot about East London in the 1950's and about the history of midwifery.

  • Sarah
    2019-02-24 12:48

    3.5 stars. I'm a sucker for babies, birth stories, and midwives tales, so I was all set to love this. I found it kind of lacking in coherence, though. It's a collection of loosely linked vignettes and I think it would have benefitted from a better editor. Some of the stories kind of stood alone, some connected, and there was not much arc connecting the whole book. I found it interesting -- certainly I learned things about London that I had never known before, and much of it was shocking -- but I was left wanting something more. Some of the stories are actually really difficult to read, because they involve SO much trauma and pain and humans being inhumane to each other. I felt sick at a few points. I also found myself a little grated upon by certain moments of the author's privilege on display. The passages about her love for fancy clothes, contrasted with the poverty around her, just turned me off. Her trips across town to drink with her well-heeled, clearly well to do childhood friends, also rubbed me the wrong way somehow. I suppose the British class system is on full display in this book, but ultimately not really challenged at all.

  • Andrea Cox
    2019-03-19 18:00

    by Andrea Renee CoxWhile I enjoyed the insight into the lives of several midwives during the 1950s, I was disappointed that there were so many inappropriate things in this book. Nudity, expletives, crude talk, graphic sexual content, alcohol, tobacco usage, etc. really dampened my enjoyment of this book. I also didn't appreciate that the author believed older women should be allowed to be crass and rude simply because they'd lived a long life. Since when does longevity grant anyone the right to belittle or degrade other people? In Titus 2, older women are advised to "be reverent in behavior... that the word of God may not be blasphemed."I was not compensated for my honest review.

  • Kelly
    2019-02-28 13:47

    I watched the BBC series Call the Midwife before I read this, and knew I would not be able to be objective about it. I already knew all the beautiful people in the book before I started. I wouldn't know where to start if I were to enumerate all of them. Some are nuns, some are young midwives, some are courageous mothers doing their best in impossible situations, some amazing fathers providing and caring for their family in horrendous circumstances, and some piteous brave children surviving the unendurable. My heart was full of joy and sometimes heartache the whole time I was reading, just like when I watch the series. I threw my heart and soul into the book just like I do the show. Living and working as a midwife in the 1950s in the docklands (East End) of London was hard work...tough people in tough circumstances. Crowded, dirty, violent. However, the midwives were universally respected. Nurses and policemen always have a rapport, especially in the East End. It's interesting, I reflect, that they always go around in pairs for protection. You never see a policeman alone. Yet we nurses and midwives are always alone, on foot or bicycle. We would never be touched. So deep is the respect, even reverence, of the roughest, toughest docker for the district midwives that we can go anywhere alone, day or night, without fear.Side Notes:I loved the Cockney dialect. And the appendix addressing her problems in writing it phonetically was really interesting. I was struggling to express the Cockney accent in written form, until a professor of English literature said to me, "You will not succeed, because it cannot be done. People have been trying since the fifteenth century, but it has never been successful." I learned about it's origins. Many Cockney speech forms--idioms, grammar and syntax--which today are considered flawed, are, in fact, very ancient speech forms that can be traced back to Tudor times.Conchita and Len and their extremely premature baby (their 25th child) - this story about did me in. So beautiful..there are no words. Her love and determination (backed by her lovely husband) defied medical knowledge of the time. Amazing.Ted's story did me in as well. What a beautiful man. In the Russian Orthodox Church there is the concept of the Holy Fool. It means someone who is a fool to the ways of the world, but wise to the ways of God. I think that Ted, from the moment he saw the baby, knew that he could not possibly be the father. It must have been a shock, but he had controlled himself, and sat thinking for a long time as he held the baby. Perhaps he saw ahead. Perhaps he understood in that moment that if he so much as questioned the baby's fatherhood, it would mean humiliation for the child, and might jeopardize his entire future. Perhaps, as he held the baby, he realized that any such suggestion could shatter his whole happiness. Perhaps an angel's voice told him that any questions were best left unasked and unanswered.

  • Emily
    2019-02-26 18:36

    This book should come with a warning. I would hate for a 14 year old girl interested in midwifery to read this. I have read a lot of midwife memoirs, and they were nothing like this. It makes you want to take a shower. The rape of children, the systematic perversion of girls, detailed graphic public sex of a prostitute and multiple men. The author does well at describing what is seen, physically felt, and smelled. It is disgusting. If this book were made into a movie, it would be porn. I got a little more than halfway through and stopped reading, so I don't know what happens in the second half of the book. I wish I had stopped reading earlier. So, there's my warning. For those not bothered by the above, it is a well-written non-fiction historical account of post-WWII London's East End Docklands slums.

  • Doronike
    2019-03-25 12:43

    Man patika. Stāsts par Londonas nabadzīgo daļu - Īstendu 50.gadu beigās. Un tā nav Londonas nabadzība mūsdienu izpratnē, bet tāda skarba dzīve graustos vēl pārdesmit gadus pēc kara, mazos un pārapdzīvotos dzīvokļos, kur grūti ievērot personisko higiēnu. Tā ir vienkāršo doku strādnieku pasaule, kurā sievas iznēsā un dzemdē bērnus apstākļos, kas ir ļoti tālu no mūsdienu izpratnes par mātes un bērna aprūpi. Galvenā stāstniece ir jauna vecmāte, kas strādā klostera paspārnē, un viņa pieredz gan jaukus, gan sāpīgus brīžus.

  • Christina
    2019-03-06 19:34

    I really loved this book. I borrowed it from a friend while in Dublin back in April thinking it may make for a nice read over the summer - I then found my flight back to the US cancelled (volcano) and myself slightly stranded at a hotel for three days. There's certainly worst places and worst conditions to be stranded in but I had already been travelling for nearly a month for work and missing my family terribly. I felt at an extreme low. I tried reading many things to distract me and pass the time but nothing seemed to work. Then I remembered this book packed away in my suitcase and I started to read through - expecting to be putting it down and to the side with all the others. However, I was so quickly drawn into it. I had literally grabbed it off a shelf at my friend's office a few days prior - she had yet to read it and I hadn't heard of it before. I spent two days reading it and didn't want to put it down. Jennifer's writing was great; the story of her life, her work in East London as a midwife were so enjoyable to read & learn about. The nuns at the convent, her experiences living there and working with them - the way she brings their personalities to life along w/ women like Mary and Conchita - it was so easy to be drawn in and captured by it all. I knew so little of life in London during this period and the social history she provided was fascinating - at times tragic and shocking. I am only just now even realising that there are 2 other books! I am thrilled about this and cannot wait to read the others. I would highly recommend this book.

  • Robyn
    2019-03-17 12:32

    I wanted to give this five stars. I loved the way it began. Jennifer Worth has an amazing ability to write about her past in vivid language, bringing situations and characters to life. I laughed and cried over each situation she described. My mother is a midwife so none of the births or medical terms and language bothered me, then came the chapter about prostitution. I have watched the series so I knew there was a story with a young Irish girl who was trapped by greedy, powerful men in a life of prostitution and Jenny helps her escape. The T.V. series treated the story with dignity and modesty, the book did not. If you simply skip two chapters you will miss out on a very graphic description of sexual acts preformed by one prostitute. There was no vulgar language but plenty of anatomically correct descriptions of birth and women's anatomy. If you skip the bit about the prostitutes there are no other sexual scenes and Jenny talks about the morality of the time and how closely guarded a woman's virtue was. Also if you skip the prostitution bit there is no other violence. And the book is not just about women giving birth but a story about coming to know God, life in the poorest part of London in the 1950's, finding inner strength and seeing into the hearts of other people to understand and care for them better.I loved this book, mostly, and loved the series on TV.

  • Karen Wherlock
    2019-03-09 16:38

    I loved this book. I read it a couple of years ago, before I knew about the PBS series, which I also enjoyed. It took place beginning in 1958, just a year before I was born, in the poorest part of London. My mom grew up "working class" in London, in an upstairs flat in a terraced house, one of 6 children who lived. Three children did not. She was economically a step above the women portrayed in the book, but only a small one. The book describes a London still struggling to recover from war. Rationing had only just ended. Toilets were still outhouses. Compare this to the America of the fifties and the difference is remarkable. My mom escaped London through ballroom dancing and marrying my dad. By 1959 she was safely in the suburbs of Windsor. I was still delivered by the nuns, in a private nursing home in Beaconsfield. After she delivered me, the nuns bought her a cup of tea and she was allowed to stay there for 3 weeks, bonding with me, resting and establishing nursing. The book reminded me of the resilience of Londoners who 15 years earlier were still at war, and especially of my mom who escaped the poverty and deprivation of London. She has led a fascinating and comfortable life. Never underestimate the power of getting your kids into the right activities, in my mom's case, ballroom dancing.

  • Alanna
    2019-02-27 16:38

    I enjoyed this book, but I sort of wanted more. I think my biggest problem was simply that Worth focused too much on the "colorful" characters she lived with, when I would have preferred to have heard more of the actual birth stories! She also kept hinting about some love of her life that hadn't worked out-- things like that tend to annoy me, especially in a memoir. If you're going to write a memoir, I feel you need to be brutally honest about yourself with your reader, so either give us the entire story, or don't bother mentioning it at all. None of this skirting the issue business!What might have made up for any lack in this book was definitely the story of the English man and his Spanish wife. Worth delivered her 24th and 25th (!!!!!!!!) babies-- and both stories absolutely blew me away-- it's so nice to read about a happy and loving family, whatever the size or circumstances! On the other hand, reading about the Irish girl forced into prostitution was very difficult to read, especially knowing that problems like this really haven't gone away (despite that they're not very visible to an average person like me). But readers should be prepared for how rough that one is...Overall a very enjoyable read.

  • Judy
    2019-03-20 14:00

    What a heartwarming and at times funny way to visit the seedier side of London's East End slums post WWII. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook with narration by Nicola Barber whose cockney accent is good enough to sound cockney, but yet understandable for those of us who can barely understand a true cockney!I cried for young Mary who was introduced into prostitution at the tender age of 14 years old; I rooted for Conchita who birthed a 28-week old baby, couldn't understand a word of English and whose mothering instincts were so strong that she....well, you will have to read it and find out. I laughed as Sister Evangelina used a very unorthodox means of making a social outcast laugh and therefore trust her in order to nurse her back to health. In fact, I'm still laughing about this one...This is a book that I would feel comfortable recommending to anyone. I am so happy that it is part of a series because I eagerly look forward to reading the others. (This from a person who almost runs from series.) 4.75 starsMy Reading Blog

  • ❤Marie Gentilcore
    2019-03-18 14:43

    I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I am a fan of the television series and I was pleased that to find that the show follows the book pretty closely. However, the book was better than the show as it was able to provide more information about each of the stories. There were a couple of stories that had a lot of depth to them that the show was not able to capture. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

  • Abc
    2019-03-15 17:41

    Bello! Avevo già visto la serie TV che ne è stata tratta e devo dire che l'ho trovata abbastanza fedele al libro.Molto interessante la ricostruzione del tessuto sociale in cui operano queste levatrici nella Londra degli anni 50. Le condizioni igieniche sono molto precarie e i mezzi di cui si dispone molto limitati, ma c'è una passione infinita da parte della protagonista e delle sue colleghe nello svolgere il proprio lavoro, qui davvero vissuto come una missione. E la cosa più bella di tutte è che si tratta di una storia vera, in quanto l'opera altro non è se non il diario tenuto dall'autrice durante i suoi anni di lavoro come levatrice.

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2019-03-22 19:36

    Jennifer Worth states in her introduction that she wrote this book in response to an article bemoaning the dearth of midwives in literature. An interesting claim, since in my perception, midwives are everywhere in literature. If you are writing a book with a historical setting and you want a female character with professional skills, you have few other options. Worth and I must not read the same books.Worth has also said that her books were intended to be the midwives’ version of James Herriot, and his influence is clear in the episodic structure of her memoir, relating her experiences as a nurse in London’s poor East End in the 1950s. Her telling is reserved, focusing on the stories of people around her and the ways childbirth has changed over the past hundred years. She shares her experiences but little of her feelings, and since the episodes seem to be organized more topically than chronologically, reading the book feels much more like having an older person tell you stories than vicariously experiencing them with her.Worth does have interesting stories, which are mostly bite-sized and make for easy reading. As an apparently typical young middle-class Englishwoman working in an impoverished area, she was thrown well outside her comfort zone, and that tension is at the heart of the book. To a modern reader, her success at overcoming her prejudices is mixed. She is able to find compassion for her patients and respect for her fellow midwives, including those whose backgrounds are very different from hers; I especially like the way she writes about Sister Evangelina, who never did seem to like the author much (real life doesn’t always have those bonding moments you find in fiction), but of whom Worth writes with insight and admiration nonetheless.On the other hand, there are some unfortunate passages. Worth hasn’t quite shaken the 1950s attitude about domestic violence; she tends to exoticize anyone who is not English (even an Irish girl is Other in her mind, which is sad but amusing to me as an American reader); and at times unfortunate attitudes about class still come out. For instance, take this passage about an East End man, someone she knew and whose babies she delivered:“He cut loose, and went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War. It is doubtful if he had the faintest idea of what he was doing, as foreign affairs rarely penetrated the consciousness of working people in the 1930s. Political idealism could have played no part in it and whether he fought for the Republicans or the Royalists would have been immaterial. All he wanted was youthful adventure, and a war in a remote and romantic country was just the stuff.”He was poor, and poor people didn’t follow the news, therefore even when he went abroad to war (which choice, presumably, already set him apart from his neighbors), he couldn’t possibly have known the first thing about it? What?Meanwhile, my difficulty with this book as entertainment is that Worth never quite decided on what tone to adopt. Some of the stories are heartwarming, others tragic, and what feels like light reading is liable to be interrupted by a disgusting description of someone’s hygiene habits or the progress of a disease. Of course all good books portray ups and downs, but this one gave me whiplash.That said, many people have loved this book, enough that it was made into a TV series (which, based on the first few episodes, is a bit sentimental but largely avoids the problems of the memoir). If nothing else, Worth works hard to recreate the time and place in which she worked, and her stories kept my interest.

  • Blandine
    2019-03-22 17:43

    When I started reading Call The Midwife, I half-expected a cheesy story about how babies are the most amazing things on earth and pregnancies are beautiful, so much so that you forget all the pain the minute you hold that little creature in your arms. While there was a little of that, there was also much more than that.Call The Midwife is the memoirs of Jennifer Worth née Lee about her time working – you guessed it – as a midwife in 1950s’ London’s East End. Through her experience, we discover life as it was back then, when East London was poor and far from its new fate of hipster-land.Breech births, dead newborns, mix-raced babies from infidelities, women giving birth to their 26th child… Many different and fascinating cases encountered by Worth are depicted there with precise details. If you’re currently pregnant or faint of the heart, I would advise you to wisely leave this book aside for the time being. Myself, as someone who has never given birth and does not intend to, I was left quite comforted in my refusal to bear a child.As a feminist, though, I could not help but feel a sense of pride: what we women have to go through, no matter how unfair (for biological or social reasons), is amazing. While men have always been at the head of countries or families, I was left wondering if they could take any of what pregnancy and birth-giving mean. I felt empowered, even more so as I’m lucky enough to have a choice regarding my own motherhood – choice that the women in Call The Midwife did not necessarily have.Indeed, besides midwife stories, the book takes us to the 1950s, when East Enders were beyond poor and lived in atrocious conditions. Tenements where one single tap was shared by dozens, a lack of hygiene, prostitution… You name it. These memoirs are just as much of a History book, with its most appalling pages there for us to turn in disbelief. The 1950s were, after all, not that long ago. In many ways, life has changed. But if you look closer, you will find that many things are still quite the same: while the 1960s and the improvement of medecine have improved (women’s) lives greatly in the Western World, much still needs to be done in our society, not to mention how many out there on different sides of the globe are still dealing with such poor conditions.There are one or two things I would like to criticise, though. Firstly, I was sometimes slightly annoyed with Worth’s narration as she would begin to tell you a story… only to leave the end out for later. Of course, it was mainly meant to keep you reading but some of them, such as Mrs Jenkins’ for instance, were engrossing and it was very frustrating to wait one or two chapters (if not more) before finding out what happened. Secondly, Worth’s religious revelation at the end of the book made me cringe. So, she worked in a convent and her depiction of the nuns was fascinating: some of them were far from the pure, innocent, boring goody-two-shoes one could imagine and it amused me greatly. However, Worth makes it sound as though “God” cannot be avoided, as though all of these experiences had to have a holy side to them. As an atheist, I sort of felt as if I were judged, in the wrong for denying the divine aspect of life.