When twenty-two-year-old Jennifer Worth, from a comfortable middle-class upbringing, went to work as a midwife in the direst section of postwar London, she not only delivered hundreds of babies and touched many lives, she also became the neighborhood';s most vivid chronicler. Woven into the ongoing tales of her life in the East End are the true stories of the people Worth met who grew up in the dreaded workhouse, a Dickensian institution that limped on into the middle of the twentieth century.
Though these are stories of unimaginable hardship, what shines through each is the resilience of the human spirit and the strength, courage, and humor of people determined to build a future for themselves against the odds. This is an enduring work of literary nonfiction, at once a warmhearted coming-of-age story and a startling look at people's lives in the poorest section of postwar London.
©2005 Jennifer Worth (P)2014 HighBridge Company
Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
"Call The Midwife" was my favorite book of last year. Although the next two books both stand alone, I would strongly suggest reading it first. Shadows of the Workhouse focuses less on the work of the midwives, rather on the experiences of older neighbors, nuns and patients who either lived in or were strongly effected by the workhouse (poorhouses). You get a vivid insight to the system that damaged families and left many who were still alive in the 1950's scarred by their experiences. I really enjoyed this book: it is tender, humorous, heartbreaking and makes history real. I do genealogy and have found several family members who lived and died in the poorhouses, so it was very personal to me. There remains a James Herriot feel to the books which consists of multiple short stories flowing together around the theme. Sister Monica Joan continues to steal the show with her antics, the book is worth the credit to see her arrested and in court for stealing jewelry. I didn't realize this is now a popular series in Britain by the BBC, you can view it on Netflix.
I have two rescue dogs. One Scottish born husband. And a love of books that goes back to childhood and bookmobiles!
I have so enjoyed the PBS series that when I saw the book's offering, I had to use one of my credits! And THEN I had to stop listening in the middle of a book to listen to Call The Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse. Neither the writing nor the narrator disappointed! If I'd never watched the series, I think I'd still be able to conjure up this area of London, it's inhabitants, and the time; that's how well Jennifer Worth writes. Nicola Barber's reading only enhances Ms. Worth's story.
Until midwife Jennifer's telling, I thought the Workhouse (poorhouse) and its effects on people of my parents generation was impossible. The truth is validated via her interactions with others. As the chronicles are three dimensional, I experienced several emotions. That's what a good "slice of life" story does.
"A bittersweet look at the Nurses and Nuns who helped the poorest of London after WW II with medical knowledge, compassion and lo"
Great book that gives more detail than the PBS show. If you enjoyed the series, you'll love the audible books. Very gritty at times but overall a tribute to true "healers" who follow their calling to help those most in need. Mostly with medical help, but with a strong dose of psychology when needed. A wonderful group of women.
As a nurse I find this author's ability to vividly share the stories (even though tragic as they may have been) through the eyes of her patients compelling and heart warming. Wonderful and captivating, the way she has shared history through storytelling. Also, the reader's accent and voice alterations made it that much more enjoyable. I especially enjoyed her version of the Cockney dialect. Looking forward to listening to the third and final book in this series.
World traveler, free sprite, lover of art, drinker of wine, giver of goodwill, design obsessed, strange, wife and loving mother of two cats.
This is a woefully sad tale that will keep you pinned to your phone. A must listen.
I cried... and cried, and cried.
Fantastic depiction of life in poverty and hardship in London's East End in the first half of the 20th century. Really well written and well read. Could not put it down.
As a lifelong reader and listener of mostly non fiction , it doesnt take long to spot phony narrative. ( A million little pieces was an obvious example) ... That a colleague would stand by and let Jane make a fool of herself and embarrass Sister Julienne was my first clue . Then the horrifying minute details of Jane's beating which no small child could possibly remember were stomach churning . Who could write that . I am saddened by this book and terminated my listening and have lost interest in watching the recent season of Call the Midwife . .....Charming and much loved storytelling gone dark, painful and fabricated.
The author tells us the stories of some of the people who's lives were touched by the work houses of the1800's or those who struggled with extreme poverty trying to avoid them. And of the nurses and nursing Sisters who lovingly cared for them. The history of the workhouse system is told through the eyes of those who passed through them. The stratification of the British class system is made very clear, which was fascinating to me as an American who had never lived in that type of culture. Using period specific vocabulary and local dialect (Cockney) was also fascinating to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
This memoir focuses mainly on recollections pertaining to survivors of the workhouse system in London (as the title suggests). The stories are more brutal and less uplifting than the birth-focused stories in the previous book and the television show, so be prepared for an emotionally difficult read. It is an excellent reminder of what the reality of life was before the advent of social welfare programs. Essentially, it's hours of stories about child and elder abuse (and the lifelong ramifications of that abuse) with some anecdotes about Sister Monica Joan thrown in.
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