So far this year, I've listened to about 50 books, and this has been the best of them. I don't read much non-fiction, I'm a guy, I'm an American, and I don't have any children, so a book of memoirs from a midwife in 1950's London shouldn't logically resonate with me at all. I can't explain it, but I thought this book was wonderful.
I read a few other reviews that disliked the narrator, but I thought she did a great job. She subtly captures different voices without making it into a big deal. The recording mix was a little strange, though, so if you have headphones that really accentuate bass tones, you might have a little trouble with the sound.
The book is a series of stories about different people that the author interacts with during her time studying nursing at a convent in London. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, most of them incorporate interesting historical points about women's health, and all of them are amazing.
I wish I was a better reviewer so I could give a better picture of how great this book is. I'd feel a little silly just writing "this book is awesome" until I hit Audible's character limit, but that would about sum it up.
This is a delightful book and just wonderful to listen to. It is the memoir of a midwife in London of the 1950s. It is hard to believe that before the National Health Service came into being in the late 1940s and made free healthcare available to all, maternity care for the poor was practically non-existent in Britain. But by the mid 1950s nurse midwives were bicycling around the projects of London giving prenatal (the Brits call it antenatal) care and handling home deliveries, or even hospital deliveries for complications. Each story is more delightful or amazing than the others. My only complaint is that I never wanted it to end. The author, an experienced nurse, signs up for midwife training and thinks she is being sent to a hospital but instead it is a community of nuns who lovingly care for their patients and train other nurses to become experienced midwives. Britain was still recovering from the privations of WWII and there was an immense shortage of housing. Poor families lived in incredibly crowded and primitive conditions. Many of the old condemned buildings did not have running water for each flat but were still full of families because there was nowhere to move them. Into this comes all the drama of birth and death and family and money issues and even racial issues (Britian was just beginning to get immigrants of different racial backgrounds). It is just beautifully written, beautifully narrated (the Cockney voices will haunt me) and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Yes, specifically those that liked The Birth House.
I liked her portrayal of Sister Monica Joan.
There were times I was misty, I'm trying to conceive and there are all these mothers having children in hard conditions...
I really liked the glimpse into a time period and culture I was not familiar with. The characters are interesting-- although sometimes it is sad. Mostly I was so interested in the work of a midwife. I will listen to it again. I admire the author of this book-- for telling of short cases, yet making the stories hold together-- but mostly for the work she did as a midwife. The PBS series was well done, but as always a book is more satisfying.
I liked the history about the Dockland area of London in the mid-20th century and how the people lived. It did much to bring the area and its people to life. I did not like the narrator.
Sister Monica Joan was great fun and had the most depth of character.
Oy. Ms. Barber clearly has a good range of voices, so her decision - and the director's decision to allow her- to read the main character in the tiny, near-whisper, sometimes whiny, nasally voice is beyond my understanding. It was extremely distracting as the voice would get so soft I'd have to turn up the volume and so nasally and whispery that I'd have to strain to hear. And then, suddenly, she'd do a different louder voice, and I'm backing down the volume in exasperation. By the time the book was ending (and the last chapter was, without question, the most annoying of all) I was so distracted by the affectation that I could barely concentrate on the story.
It was OK, but could have been SO much better!
Listen carefully to the sample before you buy it and realize that, for much of the story, she modulates this voice down to even more of a nasal whisper. .
I found the main character very relatable and lovable. Her stories of the women she met through midwifery were sad, beautiful, inspiring, and lovely.
The Faithful Traveler
I recently discovered this series on Netflix and HAD to read the original. It's extremely well written, and the reader does a fantastic job with all of the accents, including Spanish and Cockney. Her voice is not annoying in the least. In fact, I can't wait to hear the next installment in the series. It's a gripping work that makes one realize how blessed we all are to live in such times when medicine and technology have advanced so. Still, it also allows you to see how beautiful life once was, as well. It makes me feel happy to listen to these stories.
Enchanting. I was thoroughly caught up in this story from beginning to end. Only got better and better with every successive chapter. It opened my eyes to what the poor endured in this area of Britain in the middle of the last century. Increased my sense of appreciation for what I have today, in my own home and life. Taught me lessons about not judging by the things seen with the eyes, but instead, having heart and love for all sorts of people. The candor and humility in her tale are very affecting. And some of the true stories are so incredible, they seem impossible! I could go on & on; I appreciate reviewers who brilliantly explain why a book is great, but I'm going to simply sum it up as a guaranteed super listen.
I am a daily commuter, 1 hour each way. Audible rides shotgun with me every day. The time flies by when I am listening to a good book.
The overall story was okay but the narration was awful. The narrator spoke so low at times that I had to turn the volume almost all of the way up. It was between a monotone and a whisper and so aggravating. I liked several of the individual stories but some chapters would leave the reader hanging or seemed totally unnecessary. There were a few chapters where I would have liked more detail. For instance, the main character references a lost love several times but does not give any further details. Why bring it up and peak my curiosity if you're not going to delve into it? The book was not exactly what I expected and I was glad when it was over.
Back in 1961, FCC Chairman Newton Minnow called television a "vast wasteland" -- and he was right, back then. Today, television is in a magnificent resurgence, with exceptional programming like BBC's "The Street", PBS's "Sherlock", and best of all, BBC's
"Call the Midwife", which I first encountered via Netflix. Seeing that first episode, I was entranced -- and spent the next several evenings watching every episode available. Amazing, the acting, the stories, the history, the clear but soft presentation of moral issues -- no preaching -- not to mention the insights into life in London's East End in the 1950's -- not that long ago, in the scheme of things.
So it was with some trepidation that I bought the audio book -- which was the exact reverse of a situation for me. Normally I read the book, and then am reluctant to see the film because it's almost never as good. In this case, I'd seen several seasons of the astonishingly good television series, and found myself wondering if the actual book could be anywhere near as fine.
It was. And then some -- in fact, the TV series follows Jennifer Worth's written memoirs very carefully, at least in the situations and scenes presented. The TV producers added a little more love interest than was in the memoirs -- for several of the young women, not just Jenny -- but otherwise it's all there, the Sisters, with their various eccentricities, Jenny, with all her sincerity, Fred the handyman with all his schemes, and of course "Chummy" -- well, how would anyone describe Chummy? But the book character is very similar to that played by the enormously talented Miranda Hart. I find myself smiling whenever she appears -- whether in the book or in the films.
There are a few more historical details in the book than in the series, which I found fascinating. Again, 1950 wasn't all that long ago, but it continued to amaze me that so many medical advancements we take for granted now weren't available then.
The audio book is greatly enhanced by the perfect narration by Nicola Barber. Her very soft voice, perfect enunciation, is absolutely the right choice for this memoir. Well done!
All in all, highest recommendation possible for this audio book -- and for the BBC series!