Monday, 19 February 2018

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife
by Jennifer Worth

Summary: Call the Midwife' is a most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history. It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife in the East End of London in the 1950's and is a graphic portrayal of the quite appalling conditions that the East Enders endured.
I made the mistake of reading this book after I'd watched the TV show.

The problem with that is that the TV show is a really, really good and faithful adaptation so while I was reading, it felt like I had already read this story, and this was one of the rare occasions where the book didn't add much more to it than the show gave.

The only thing I got from the book that there was less of in the show was hindsight...the book includes a lot of information about how midwives and nurses were trained to treat patients back then, but Jennifer Worth also talks about the things they got wrong. Like having mothers on bed rest for weeks when now they know that it's best for them to be up and about as soon as possible to prevent complications. There's a little bit of this in the show via the narrator, but there's more of it in the book.

There were also some more graphic descriptions of child birth that obviously couldn't be shown on the show. It was actually pretty interesting to read about (I'm not squeamish about that sort of thing, if anything it's reassuring knowing what our bodies are capable of). It left me kind of in awe of the women throughout history who were having children before all of the medical advancements we have now (and the option of pain meds).

This review is a bit waffling and I'm not sure where I'm going with it really (out of practice), but I guess what I'm trying to say is that the book is really fascinating and informative and it pulls that off with so much heart and personality. It's hard not to love and care about the people from Jennifer Worth's stories when she talks of them with such warmth and realness.

I did genuinely love the book. I just wish I'd read it before seeing the show. The show is fantastic too -- the cast is excellent and it's so honest and heartwarming and heartbreaking and eyeopening, and I love seeing what it was like for women like my granny back then, and how the NHS and nursing and midwifery have evolved over time.

I really recommend checking out both, but maybe start with the book.

"Now and then in life love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul all unprepared..." - Jennifer Worth


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