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4.0 out of 5 stars
Call the Midwife - a salutory experience, 27 Feb 2003
'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. Some of the stories told by the author are so distressing that I have lost sleep over them and I find myself longing to know what ultimately became of Mary, the young Irish girl imprisoned for stealing a baby (her own baby having been removed from her when the nuns caring for her were unable to place her in a job that would allow her to keep her child). What happened to Mary's daughter? By my reckoning she should be a woman in her 50's now - was she ever told that she was adopted, that she had been removed from her adoring mother without Mary's consent? I have had nightmares too about the two little boys sheltering behind a chair to escape the violence of their mother's partner; what became of them, did they go on to inflict the same brutality on their own children? As a graduate of Modern History (and student midwife), I thought I knew a good deal about recent British history. How very wrong I was. This book gave me much pause for thought: the heroism of the nursing order of nuns that Jennifer Worth worked with; the courage of Jennifer Worth and her colleagues in delivering babies in the most appalling conditions; the survival instinct of the East End women - it was a complete eye-opener. Oh, that those who pursue financial gains through our litigious culture could read this book - huge families living without the basics of sanitation or even roofs (tarpaulins providing their shelter), Conchita and her 25 pregnancies. I await Jennifer Worth's promised follow-up with great anticipation - my only observation being that she needs to let us know what became of her 'heroes' and 'heroines' - did Conchita live to a ripe old age, did Mary ever escape the clutches of prostitution once released from prison? Come on Jennfer, please tell us. And congratulations on an incredible book - this student midwife looks in awe upon your skills, your courage, your ability to deliver a baby in the most desperate circumstances. And I salute the women of the 1950s East End.