Friday, April 10, 2009

Midwife by Jennifer Worth

At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth, a new nurse, came to study and work as a midwife at Nonnatus House. Nonnatus House was staffed by nuns, and the focus of their service was a large midwife practice. The time period was just after World War II and into the early 1950's in London. Specifically, the locale was that part of London down by the Docks which populated by people familiarly known as Cockney's. Poor and hard-working, the majority of these families still had their babies at home in this time period. Jennifer quickly learned an immense amount about delivering babies, but she also learned to appreciate and love the people who surrounded her.

The Midwife is a series of vignettes, each giving the reader a view into the life of the people surrounding Nurse Worth. Concita has her twenty-fifth baby during this time and is a contented wife and mother, although she only speaks Spanish. Mary is a young Irish girl, who is drawn into prostituition when she runs away from an abusing stepfather and ends up in London with no means of support. Sister Monica Joan is an older nun at the House, who seems to delight in tormenting the other nuns with her quick wit. Mrs. Jenkins, poor and clothed in tatters, roams the streets, always somehow knowing when a new baby has arrived and refusing to leave until she is told its' status. Betty Smith had a premature baby on Christmas. The arrival of large numbers of immigrants brings up the social issue of babies with parents from two races, and the inability to hide the adultery underlying this. The reader also learns a lot of medical information about how babies are born, advances in medicine and how perceptions of childbirth have changed over the years.

I found this book utterly charming. Jennifer Worth writes with unsparing detail of the poverty and crime around her, yet the people who inhabit these pages are portrayed lovingly and they come alive on the pages. The reader is transported to the Docks to live and learn. This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs.

1 comment:

Yvette Kelly said...

I dont know if its the way you do your reviews but all the books you blog about seem to be interesting!!