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Harrowing True Stories of Life in the East End,
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This review is from: Call The Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s (Hardcover)
In the introduction, Jenny Lee says that she wrote this book when she realised that there was no portrayal of the role of midwives in literature. Her aim was to give an account of the role of the 1950s midwife which would do for midwifery what James Herriot did for vets. In this she has succeeded.
She presents lives of abject poverty, destitution and slum living, combined with the fact that most women did not have one or two children, but five, ten, fifteen - and in one case twenty four! As the book progresses we meet so many different characters and learn their haunting stories. The tale of Mary, the 14 year old Irish girl, abused by her stepfather and neglected by her alcoholic mother, who naively ran away to London in hope of a better life, and was forced into prostitution and later separated by force from her baby. This left me in tears, weeping for this poor girl who never stood a chance. The story of the elderly Mrs Jenkins, who the author found so repulsive until she learned of her truely harrowing experiences in the workhouse. The tale of an elderly man called Ted, who realised that the child his wife bore him could not possibly be his, but as he held the baby in his arms decided to love him as his own anyway. The tale of Conchita and Len, and their happy, cheerful home with twenty-four children! And how her maternal instinct saved the life of her premature twenty-fifth baby.
This book provides the reader with an insight into life in the 1950s East End. I studied social history as part of my first degree, and this should be a compulsary text. This book explains with great clarity the extreme level of poverty without hope of relief that was the lot for many in those days. But there were also many wonderful things about the time. People lived their front doors unlocked, had families just around the corner for support and so on.
I could go on and on about this book, but perhaps I should just say, read it and discover its value for yourself.