The Midwife is the memoir of Jennifer Worth, and it follows a year or so of her life when she was in her twenties. Worth trained as a midwife with a convent of nuns who served London's poor East End in the 1950's. This book chronicles her time with the nuns.
The stories that Worth tells alternate between uplifting, heartbreaking, charming, and hilarious, and her descriptions of the characters that she meets and interacts with are fascinating. As I am currently planning a family, and thinking quite a lot about pregnancy, I found this book even more compelling. Worth gives some interesting history about midwifery and obstetrics, and I found it illuminating that, at least for East End women, the midwife was the only medical attendant they expected to have at the birth. Going to the hospital meant bad, bad news, and a doctor's presence meant only slightly less danger. Yet the nuns provided excellent prenatal care, and obviously excellent service, so no woman wanted anything else. In addition to the stories of the births she attended, Worth tells us stories about the various people she meets in her day-to-day work. From the disturbed, elderly Mrs. Jenkins, to the family of Len and Conchita Warren, this book is full of fascinating people.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I don't think it was just because of the connection I currently feel to all pregnant women and stories of birth. Worth is a great story-teller, although at times the chapters did not flow very well from one to another. And the end of the book came on me rather abruptly. But I guess when you are telling stories about real life, that is what happens. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in stories about real people, and is not afraid of the descriptions of birth that of course come along with a book like this.