It was so lovely to catch up with the characters from the BBC series of “Call The Midwife”. I particularly adore Chummy, she’s just too cute!
This book was fantastic! I didn’t realise the show was based off a memoir until partway through the first season, a few years ago. I somehow put off reading the book, but decided to read it for my Top Ten Tuesday winter book list. I’m so glad I did, as this book made me laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously.
If you’ve watched the show, you know the story, for the most part. Some things have been changed (not as much Jimmy or Chummy… sigh.) but the essential character of Jennifer Worth’s memoir is in the show. It’s so warm and all the characters feel like friends, even when they only grace the page for a short time. I want to be adopted by Len and Conchita. I want to love Mrs Jenkins and watch the pigs get randy under Sister Julienne’s watchful eye. You really feel like you’re riding along with Jennifer, through the Docklands of London’s East End.
For those who haven’t watched the TV programme, Call the Midwife is about a young nurse negotiating her first years working as a midwife in London’s poor East End. She’s living and working in a convent, Nonnatus House, under the watchful eyes of Anglican sisters, who are also nurses and midwives. She meets a cast of fascinating people and shares her experiences working amongst the poorest of the poor, prostitutes, ex workhouse inmates and many more.
This book didn’t make me cry as much as the show does- invariably I’m a snotty, sobbing mess by the end of each episode. I was restraining tears on the train the other day though, and today I had to pretend I was coughing so my mother wouldn’t notice me swallowing a sob! I also laughed so many times, particularly with lovely (and slightly senile) Sister Monica Joan. At one point, she calls Sister Evangelina “The Dong with the Luminous Nose” and that just made me lose it. I was luckily at home, otherwise I would have got some really strange looks! Her cheeky, sneaky and naughty elderly behaviour reminded me so much of my Granny, except she hasn’t taken religious vows! The book moves through the patients of Nonnatus house and the different issues facing those living in the East End during this period.
On the subject of medical procedures in this book, I will warn those who find such things disturbing that they possibly should skip this one. There’s no flies on Jenny. She doesn’t sugarcoat it and some sections are quite graphic. So if graphic depictions of childbirth or nasty wounds are not something you can deal with, this won’t be for you. There is also some talk of rape, domestic violence and child abuse. Life in this time and place wasn’t pretty and neither is childbirth, when you think about it. I have a very strong stomach for medical procedures, having had far too many myself and working as a nurse for a short time, so I didn’t find it too graphic, but I know others will find these subjects confronting and possibly disturbing.
The bad guys are bad, the good guys are good and everyone is just so wonderfully written. And what’s more- it’s true. What better way to understand more social history as well as medical advances and practices? It also has a very interesting section on the Cockney dialect, as well as a glossary for the medical terms the average reader might be unfamiliar with, which I unfortunately discovered when I finished, so my only critique has been quashed! There are several other books written by Jennifer Worth, which I am looking forward to reading in the future.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5.