Reposting this review from earlier this year because the Kindle edition is on sale for $2.99
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth is the first memoir in a three part book series about being a midwife in the East End of London during the 1950s. Jenny Lee (Lee is her maiden name) is a midwife who works and lives with nuns in a convent. In her memoir, Worth describes a variety of experiences from her career as a midwife in a place and a time where circumstances are very difficult. She tells of cases involving eclampsia, physical abuse, malnourishment, and breach births. For mothers, and women even, the memoir provides a compelling and emotional story of life in the 1950s.
According to Wikipedia, Jennifer Worth decided to write this memoir because a writer of the time was calling for a midwife to represent their profession in literature in the same way that James Herriot had represented the veterinarian. The first book was so successful that she went on to write two more books in the series and a fourth book about life living in the East End of London. The book takes place in Poplar in the East End of London, which is one of the poorer areas to survive World War II. The nuns, midwives, patients as well as the convent all are described under pseudonyms with the exception of Cynthia, who remained a good friend with the writer up until her death. Each chapter tells of different experiences or of different cases that Jenny Lee encounters and each chapter is equally compelling for different reasons.
While reading this book and watching the television series, I experienced a variety of emotions. I felt empathy for the women in these stories because in a way they are not all that different from myself. It seems actually that this is a major point in the books and in the television show in which we are all women. We may come from different places or live under different circumstances but we all give birth in the same way. I also felt extremely grateful for my own circumstances because I had all of the medical innovations, such as an epidural, and the means, such as separate rooms for each child, which many of the ladies in the book lacked. Finally, I felt an extreme wonder for the beauty that is life and the miracle that is witnessed each time a new baby is brought into the world.
The memoir is perfectly suited to be a television show as each chapter can easily be transformed into an episode without putting a damper on the flow of the story. So far, three seasons of the television series have been produced and aired. Similarly to the first season of the Orange is the New Black, the first two season of the series follows the book closely and the third season begins to depart from the literature so as to continue the story. Many of the character that were cast in the television series met my expectations. I did picture the fellow midwife, Trixie, a bit more demure but, for the most part, was satisfied. In my opinion, the television series is accompanied with some excellent music, which I find to be also true with the other British shows that I enjoy (Sherlock and Downton Abbey).
One subject t that I have been pondering as I watch these excellent series that are on television is whether or not they should be extended past their intended lives. This television is based on three novels. Why shouldn’t the television series end when the story ends? Wouldn’t it be okay if television series ended while they are in their prime instead of when they have run their course? The television series Once Upon a Time was intended to be a mini-series that would only last 1-2 seasons. Because of its popularity, the storyline has been extended long past what was intended and has now spent a season in Neverland and this last season was stretched to involve the Wicked Witch of the West. I have heard that next season they are going to include Elsa from Frozen in the series. Wouldn’t we rather end Downton Abbey now before we get tired of it? I mention it because I think it would be a shame if they were to take these great stories and cause people to become tired of them. Everything does come to an end eventually so why shouldn’t these television shows?
As the book is very accurate historically, I would recommend this book to a lover of history novels. I would also recommend this book to other mothers (and fathers, perhaps) who can appreciate all of the emotions, fears, and joys that go into having a baby, whether in the post-WWII era or in more modern times. The book was beautifully narrated and was an easy listen since it was broken up into neat chapters. I recommend the television series as well but, I warn that I could have used a box of tissues in nearly every episode.