Call the Midwife – Jennifer Worth

    ‘Call the Midwife’ is not a book for the faint-hearted. Don’t let the cosy Sunday evening BBC adaptation lull you into a false sense of snug security. The number of occasions ‘forceps,’ ‘amniotic fluid’ and ‘mucus catheter’ are dropped into the narrative is enough to put you off your mug of cocoa.

     

    This book will also not change your life. Although coined as an auto-biography, depicting Worth’s early working life as a midwife in London Docklands, the book is written in a fictional style. Worth gathers an assortment of experiences about sex, birth and poverty in the East End to emphasise the development of midwifery over the past fifty years. Due to the book comprising of this array of accounts, the book lacks a beginning, middle and end structure and so lacks a sense of progress. This is combined with a remarkably simple stock of characters and primitive style of language. Consequently, this is no Dickens novel.

     

    Worth does, however, pinpoint her purpose in the Preface: ‘Whoever heard of a midwife as a literary heroine? Yet midwifery is the very stuff of drama.’

     

    Certainly, Worth draws back the screen of the antenatal clinic and reveals what midwifery really entails. She highlights it being both elementary and emotionally fraught, as she constantly draws parallels with modern day medicine. She bookmarks her text with historical contexts and facts, making her book an accessible social study. Furthermore, the order of nuns at the heart of the book creates a unique and poignant setting, resulting in a scrutiny of the social and religious implications of midwifery.

     

    Indeed, it is the nuns who steal the show. Worth’s narration is something in nothing, but her motley crew of habited sisters are the star performers. Embodying the books themes of faith, patience, acceptance, humility and joy, the nuns provide numerous amusing moments and human reflections.

     

    ‘Call the Midwife’ is a quick and different read. Its style of narrative means it is fast paced and entertaining, while its topic and setting offers more poignant moments. It is ideal for a daily commute or chapter before bedtime – unless you are susceptible to nightmares, particularly ones

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