Audie Award Nominee, Solo Narration - Female, 2013
At the age of 22, Jennifer Worth left her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in postwar London’s East End slums. The colorful characters she met while delivering babies all over London - from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lived to the woman with 24 children who couldn'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, Call the Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.
©2002 Jennifer Worth (P)2012 HighBridge Company
"A charming tale of deliveries and deliverance." (Kirkus Reviews)
Call the Midwife was a truly gripping book for me. I am interested in birth and so reading about how births were conducted 60 years ago was so fascinating.
Yet, Jennifer Worth's story went far beyond that of the stories of the births she attended. It was the story of her maturing as a nurse and midwife, and of her strongly held notions about what was right and acceptable being challenged. She began her midwifery training at an Anglican convent in the dockland area of London's East End with not much more than disdain for people who were strongly motivated by love of God and called to service because of it. She grew to understand the women who mentored her, and to respect the ones whom she wrote off as just nasty or odd in the beginning. Seeing her dawning understanding of faith was lovely.
She also learned so much from the families of the poor and down trodden of an area so different from what she knew before.
Some of the stories she tells in this book are hilariously funny, and others are completely heartbreaking and painful to read. Worth certainly was a gifted storyteller, reminiscent of James Herriott. I hope the other books she wrote will be released on Audible soon.
Nicola Barber is a competent narrator, and not one who will put me off a book, so I was okay at first. But, I was very surprised; she seemed to really enjoy doing this book, and the characters came alive through her excellent narration. I was very pleased!
I don't think guys should be put of by a book about birthing babies, just as Herriott's books are more about the people than the animals. Give it a go.
entertaining, sweet, educational
The breech birth scene was so intense and exactingly told I could not put this down. In fact the entire book went by too fast. I think people of all ages would enjoy these stories all from the 1950's East End of London
all of it
Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
Slices of life as experienced by a young midwife in postwar London slums. Similar to James Herriot books, with feel of Potato Peel Pie Literary Society. However, "real life" is shared and it isn't always pretty. It includes several step by step delivery of babies, the story of how a young girl is drawn into prostitution, ups and downs of married life and child raising, a few babies born with "unexpected" color, some heartbreaking abuse, poverty, adoption and horrors of poor house relief. The only portion which is lewd is during the "entertainment" at the brothel, you know it is coming and a 3 minute fast forward would remove it easily without messing with the plot. Language is clean and although some of the experiences are heartbreaking the whole feeling of the book is the beauty of the cycle of life - aptly named birth, joy and hard times. You will smile a lot!
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. This is a memoir of a nurse early in her career learning to be a Midwife in the London Dockyards in the 1950's. Her observations of convent and family living conditions are vivid, and the stories are funny, sad, and sometimes downright inspirational. I looked forward to my next chance to listen from the first chapter, with the introduction to Sister Monica Jones.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
A friend of mine from Sunderland England sent me the trilogy a number of years ago saying she grew up in the East End of London during WWII. I read the books a long time ago but decided to listen to the audiobook just to hear the accents because I could never do them.
The book is Jennifer Worth’s memoirs of her time as a nurse/midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. I remember the fifties quite well and it was easy to slip back into that time frame in the book. It is amazing how far medicine and society has come since the fifties; we now have Ultrasound, antibiotics, birth control, and an array of other medications. The fifties don’t seem like all that long ago to me, guess that is what happens as one ages.
Worth paints a colorful scene as she describes her training as a midwife while living in an Anglican Nunnery. The nuns were all nurse/midwifes and ran a school to teach nurses to be midwives while they cared for the people in the East End. Worth weaves lots of interesting stories of people and also about the nuns. I found the stories about the work houses most interesting including the fact that after they closed them in the 1930s they were converted into hospitals. It is no wonder the poor people did not want to go to the hospital. The book has little of Worth’s personal life but is mostly about patients and fellow midwifes. In many ways the book is a work history and anthropology of the Docklands of the East End.
I understand there was a T.V. series called “Call the Midwife” based on Worth’s memoirs that was very popular in Britain. Overall I enjoyed the book and the trip down memory lane. Nicola Barber did an excellent job narrating the book.
The PBS series was fascinating, the book was better.
To find out one of the boys became one of Lady Di's drivers. Not only ar there wonderful stories of birth, but so much history after WW 2.
It made me smile, with so many stories it told.
Think this book is for all.
I love non-fictional first hand tales like this and this writer was really good.
Sister Monica Joan made me laugh, think and want to cry.
Nicola Barber seemed to have the rare talent of a great voice and an understanding of the material that allows her to read the story with the right emphasis on the right things. Her various accents were brilliant. I would actually choose anther book on the strength of her reading it alone.
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.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
I'm a child of the '50s, but here in the US, not in London, post WWII, a time of great uncertainty for many people. I'm usually drawn to historical fiction, but this audio book with true stories of the convent and midwives who served the poor and impoverished citizens is excellent. It's funny, touching, sad, and gives us a glimpse into a profession and lifestyle that most of us would never have the opportunity to know or understand otherwise. The faith of the catholic nuns, which Jennifer at first found to be strange and meaningless, was one of the sweetest and most profound parts of the story, as Jennifer learned first hand the power of a God that heals . . . a God that HEARS. This book is not preachy, it's very understated on the subject of religion, yet very real. Midwives riding bikes through snow and storms to deliver babies, give insulin shots, care for the elderly. Nuns who are as tough as nails, and as kind as Jesus. I purposely have not yet watched the tv series. I'm ready to see it now. I'm sure it won't hold a candle to the book.
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!
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