Title: The Midwife: A Memoir Of Birth, Joy & Hard Times
Author: Jennifer Worth
Format: Electronic / Kindle
This memoir may seem like an odd choice for a book review on Easter Sunday. I was looking through the books I’ve read recently and trying to decide which one should receive the treatment this week. I considered the many fictionalised accounts of the Life of Christ I’d read over the years. I considered some of the books focusing on the Spring fertility rites of non-Christian religions. I considered a couple of books dealing with Passover. So how, exactly, did I end up with this title?
Much like Margaret Powell’s Below Stairs (reviewed by me here), this is a memoir that gave birth to a popular British television drama–in this case BBC1’s hit Call The Midwife. I binge-watched Series 1 on Neflix Instant and found myself craving more. I wanted to read the stories behind the stories and so I downloaded this first in a trilogy to my trusty Kindle.
The book is Jennifer Worth’s recounting of her time as a nurse-midwife attached to, but not a practicing member of, a convent of Anglican Nuns in 1950s East London. Babies are born, not born, made and unmade in these pages and the stories of those births are captivating in their own right. But Worth takes the book a step further and introduces the reader to the poorest of the poor huddled in the capital city of one of the wealthiest empires in history. We come to know the byways of the impoverished East End. We find our way bicycling past bomb sites that are piles of rubble a decade after the blitz and now home to addicts and prostitutes. We meet the living dead refugees from the cruel and inhumane workhouses who are left to fight to live their remaining years amidst the squalor of condemned buildings.
Through all of this we see the nuns responding with grace and the hearts of servants. Each Sister has her own personality uniquely suited to the challenges of midwifery among the poor.
So that’s why I chose this book for Easter. It’s as good a picture of the purpose of Easter as I can think, watching how the nuns of Nonnatus House and the nurse-midwives they train respond to the stuff of life. It is grace in action. It is new life–the story of springtime and Eostre. It is a living picture of the Hearth Goddesses. It is an example of death passing over a people.
In other words, it’s the perfect book for anyone to read in celebration of this season.
I’m giving it a 5.