“Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in awhile you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.”
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
Feelings: I love this series on PBS; I probably cry every episode. I knew that at some point I’d want to pick up the book that started it all. I wanted to see if there was anything left out or really, just how different it was. Jennifer Worth is someone that I liked at the beginning of season 1 and then after a while, I felt myself drifting apart from her. I wanted to reconnect with her through her memoirs and that’s just what happened.
I find midwifery to be fascinating. I wasn’t bored by any of Jenny’s stories. Each patient and baby had a unique experience and outcome. Knowing that these were true stories was really eye opening. As an American, I’m not all that familiar with the history of English life so I really learned a lot from this book.
Issues: Nearly the first half of the book had a great flow. Each chapter had a new topic and was a story all on its own. Then we got to the part about Mary and suddenly the whole tone of the book shifted. It had been up to that point full of hope and life, while still being honest about the suffering that was happening in the East End. Mary’s story, while really interesting, was kind of a detour. It could have been the topic of a book in itself, but in this book it just derailed what was going on. And when Mary’s story was over, we shifted back to how the book flowed before.
Characters: Jenny has such a strong voice. Her narrations and ways of telling stories were inviting, while also being full of lessons and truth. She weaves together history, medical terminology, tales of heartbreak, and moments of love and laughter. Even as a memoir, we see a lot of character growth from beginning to end. She shows us how what she experienced shaped her through her adult life.
I love the Sisters of Nonnatus House. Each one is unique and special, with their own stories and histories. It was interesting to read the perspective of these Sisters from someone who was outside their religion. She tells their stories with reverence and openness.
I would have liked to learn more about the other nurses that she worked with: Cynthia, Trixie, and Chummy. We do learn a bit about Chummy’s life and where she was coming from. Having watched the show, I already felt like I knew these characters, but without that background knowledge, I wouldn’t have known anything about Cynthia and Trixie.
Comparisons: Sister Monica Joan! Cynthia! Sister Bernadette! The gang’s all here in this book. Trixie is there, but she’s rarely in the stories, unlike in the show. Chummy meets a police officer, but it doesn’t play out like it does in the show. I think overall, the show does a really great job of capturing the heart of Jenny’s experiences in the East End.
Final thoughts: This book is not for the faint at heart. Meaning: If you’re squeamish when it comes to anatomy and how babies are made and born…part of me wants to say “look elsewhere” and the other part wants to recommend this book to you. Ha! I’m looking forward to picking up the next book and learning more!
Goodreads rating: 4.17/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5
My rating: 4.5/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn