on 2 September 2011
Congratulations to Agnes for writing a real book about real lives, so much more rewarding than a ghost-written memoir of a 'famous' star. I just loved it. The writing draws you in, so the reader doesn't realise until the end that the book is an excellent piece of social history, a marker of time in the changing world of medical practice and the NHS. All you politicians, consultants and NHS managers need to read this and see the world from the bottom up, rather than the top down. And thank you too, to Hodder Paperbacks; it is refreshing to see a publisher still backing such writing in tough publishing times.
on 7 September 2011
I was in the middle of similarly entitled book when someone recommended this author to me. Midwife on Call is a real page turner and easy to read. The personal touch is engaging and you can't help but immediately fall into Agnes' world from the start of her career as a young single nurse in the sixties, to her retirement. Succinctly written with some sad, sometimes shocking, recollections about child birth that leave you feeling choked but Agnes skilfully weaves in some fantastic humour to lift you and in my case, laugh out loud. The book is a great insight into how nursing / midwifery practices have progressed over time and the challenges that were faced by confident midwives like Agnes calling for change. I was left wishing Agnes had been my midwife. A refreshing, revealing and fun must read.
on 4 November 2011
What a wonderful story of a devoted and passionate midwife, Agnes Light has shared her memories from her student nurse training through to teaching other new midwives. She paints vivid pictures of new bringing new lives into the world with some hilarious stories and sometimes sad and poignant ones too, she exudes the warmth and empathy in her writing that she obviously gave to the new parents and their babies. She wasn't afraid to challenge the authority of the old school policies, rules and regulations which got her into trouble sometimes but she persevered in what she knew was right and made changes happen to improve the way women are cared for in childbirth, this is a great piece of social history for midwifery. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to my friends.
on 2 March 2012
Having just finished reading 'Call the Midwife' by Jennifer Worth, I was a little disappointed with this book. While it is inevitable that stories from the east end of London in the 1950's will trump those of a less outrageous time, I found that this book simply glossed over the stories like a distant memory rather than telling the story with depth and feeling.
I also found the self righteous attitude slightly irritating at times. I have no doubt of the skill and good nature of the author, however I got fed up of her repetative 'the system is wrong and I was the only one who spoke up' attitude. Even when she was in the wrong there were still excuses and made a martyr of herself almost.
All in all, it was an easy going book, I enjoyed it but would have preferred abit more storytelling.
I tried this book after finishing Jennifer Worth's "Call the Midwife" series. I understand that those books are a hard act to follow, especially as Worth was a midwife in such unusual circumstances and time, so I wasn't expecting this to be quite the same, but nonetheless I found it rather disappointing.
The author comes across as passionate and skilled in her work, and I have no doubt she is a good midwife, but as an author she lacks the ability to tell a good story. The events are told in a straightfoward, slightly dull way with few anecdotes, and she tends to over-emphasise her own feelings and opinions which somewhat get in the way of the stories of the people she's talking about. There's the odd good story, but they're not told very well and she fails to give you a true feeling of the characters she's writing about.
She does also come down very hard on the NHS, both as it was when she began training and then as it evolved over her career. I do appreciate what she's saying and I am sure she has a point on a lot of matters, but I do feel that she is a little over-harsh on "the system" and some of the colleagues she worked with - she didn't seem to much like the old NHS with its rigid discipline and set rules, but then she hasn't got much time for the modern NHS either.
Very little seems to be to her liking in fact - and she does come across as slightly preachy at times - whilst I am sure she's an excellent midwife, she seems to have been rather critical and rebellious right from the start almost on principle, even when she began her training and really didn't have the experience and knowledge to criticise too much. She comes across as confident and skilled but perhaps just a tad arrogant, considering she often seems to feel others were arrogant themselves.
Doctors, other midwives, senior nurses and management are all soundly criticised on little more than a third-hand account from a patient - sometimes I wish she'd tried to see it from their point of view too, especially when she talks about the mistakes she made herself - it's lucky others weren't always as critical of her as she sometimes is of them in her book! There are two sides to every story after all and I feel she was very quick to rubbish others work without even speaking to them first to see why they acted the way they did - there may well have been circumstances she was unaware of which would shed a different light on the matter.
She also falls into quite a lot of modern jargon such as "empowerment" which she uses rather repetitively, and I found some lines, such as about "the feeling of the power of women being with women" a little trite. She does seem to have very set and firm opinions about how things should be done which sometimes come across as just as inflexible as the system she criticises - and I feel she doesn't really acknowledge that whilst there may have been faults in the "system", the NHS was actually remarkably helpful and flexible with her throughout her career, enabling her to train and work part-time in ways that fitted around her life as a single mother with a degree of enlightenment you don't see with many employers even now! She certainly couldn't have trained as a midwife without the support and flexibility she was shown, and I feel she doesn't always acknowledge that when she's criticising the system.
I understand she's offering a point of view from the frontline, but she doesn't always seem to try and see it from the point of view of other staff either. In an ideal world patients might well be offered the perfect birth experience of their choice, but in reality this isn't going to be possible with limited resources and our litigation-happy culture. She also seems to feel that a woman should be able to give birth however and wherever she wishes, and should be supported totally in their decision by medical staff, but then if anything goes wrong the medical staff are still blamed entirely, even if the woman went against their advice on the best care for them.
She also seems happy to criticise procedures she feels are unnecessary and done only because "that's the way we always did it", but then when new ideas such as water-births etc. are introduced, she seems to accept them as marvellous automatically without criticism, simply because they are new and the patient likes the idea of them. So established ideas are criticised almost because they are established, but new ideas seem to be accepted without question simply because they are new.
Ultimately the book reads a little too much like a personal manifesto of the authors beliefs of how things should be done, and her own life and feelings, and tells us too little about her patients and her job. I felt I came away having read a very personal, rather biased opinion piece of how one midwife thinks things should be done, rather than an interesting look at the job and experiences of a midwife.
Interesting and competently written, but not very enjoyable to read. More of an opinion piece than a memoir. I think if it had been described a little better instead of being given a cover and a "blurb" on the back which suggested it was going to be a warm, moving book of the life of a midwive and her patients, then I might have known more what to expect.
on 3 February 2013
Very interesting book, love to read of birth stories good and sadly bad, having had six children myself I wished I could become a midwife but to much training and possibly no job at the end of it, I think bring back the days mums stayed in hospital for at least a week and midwives visit everyday my midwife was at times the only person I saw all day.... great book thankyou