Saturday, January 3, 2015

Call the Midwife series by Jennifer Worth

This autobiographical series follows nurse Jenny Lee as she embarks on a journey to become a midwife to the women of London’s poor post war East End.  Uprooting her life from its comfortable middle class surroundings, she finds herself at the doorstep of the convent of St. Raymond Nonnatus, suddenly unnerved and wondering if this adventure would turn out to be an impulsive mistake.

What follows is a story that is uniquely told and endlessly engaging.  The women and men of the Docklands come alive, their stories at times happy, tragic, ordinary, and inspiring (and often at the same time).  Jennifer Worth muses that the lives of midwives and midwifery are largely absent from the pages of history, and her stories seek to bring them alive.

I found myself pulled in this memoir right from the start.  The stories and characters jump right off the page.  At times graphic and technical (be ready for detailed descriptions of birthing scenes), her stories create a rich and multilayered tapestry of life in the time.  I recommend the series (which includes Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewellto the East End) to anyone interested in 1950’s London or history with a focus on women’s issues.  For fans of the series, I also suggest the BBC series Callthe Midwife, which I found to be an excellent adaptation of the books.

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