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Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s (The Midwife Trilogy #1)

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  22,280 ratings  ·  3,265 reviews
An unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman

At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London's East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published 2007 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published 2002)
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Having given birth with the support of a midwife three times, when I heard about this one, I knew I had to make time to read it. The Midwife is the memoir of Jennifer Worth (“Jenny”) and her experiences in the East End Slums of post-war London. I think three things come together to make this a very interesting book.

First, the voice of Jenny. She is candid and real - her storytelling doesn't sugar-coat her experiences or her mistakes. She never pretends that the East End was anything other than w
I'm writing this as I'm just about halfway through so I may revise this later. For now, oh man. I have some issues with this book. I started reading it after I watched all of the first season of Call the Midwife on Netflix. I loved the show and got excited to see they were based on actual books.

Maybe my opinion is tainted by the fact that the author states she was trying to be the James Herriot of midwives. But as I've been reading, I've had the impression in many places that she was trying to
I see now that this is the first book of a series:

This book is fun. You are told astounding stories about the author's years working as a midwife at the Nonnatus House Convent in the Docklands during the 1950s. You meet the wonderful Sister Monica Joan, a somewhat "crazy" ninety year-old nun, Conchita Warren who will give birth to both her twenty-forth and twenty-fifth child, the latter premature of only 28 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds,
Petra X
I read the companion book to this last year and hadn't been able to get this in the US, but now I am in the UK with my terminally-ill mother I took the opportunity to find it. You wouldn't think that the world of the 50s was so different as it is now, but this depiction of the 50s, of bombed-out London, health care where antibiotics were the new miracle drug and children played safely in the streets because there were no cars is truly another world. This, though, is also the story of a young nur ...more
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I liked the setting -- 1950s London -- but I had been wary of reading 300-plus pages about pregnancies and birthing and midwifery. In movies and TV shows, for instance, I hatehatehate childbirth scenes. It's always the same: The mother cries out in pain, the father looks anxious, the doctor sternly gives orders, and then presto! A sweet and wrinkled baby is handed to the parents.*

But "Call the Midwife" (which is also the name of the 2012 BBC seri
Oh, that I could have six stars to give. . .

Having originally been smitten with this wonderful British TV series, I am now head over heels in love with the book. It's the first of a trilogy which pleases me to no end. I must get my book club to read this.

One of my favorite chapters is about a friendship between Chummy and an adolescent boy. It's barely touched upon on TV. The luncheon party where
Jennifer's three male friends are invited to dine at the convent is pure comic genius. The premature
I decided to read this book because I recently watched the BBC/PBS show "Call the Midwife", which is based on the memoirs by Jennifer Worth. I absolutely fell in love with the TV show-- it has a perfect mix of happy and sad, with great characters.

That being said, I actually came away from the book "Call the Midwife" feeling a little unsatisfied. I certainly enjoyed the stories that she told. Some were heart-breaking, some sweet or funny. I enjoyed the subplot about Jenny discovering a profound
4.5 stars - Spoilers

I absolutely love the tv show, it's brilliant. I'm so obsessed with it that I decided to check out the book even though I never read non-fiction. I'm really glad I picked it up because it turned out to be a fascinating, heartbreaking, and lovely read.

Random thoughts:

-Summary: Jennifer Worth's memoirs of her time as a midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. There's stories of herself, her patients, and the nuns she lives and works with… And they're all great.

-I really
I really loved this book. I borrowed it from a friend while in Dublin back in April thinking it may make for a nice read over the summer - I then found my flight back to the US cancelled (volcano) and myself slightly stranded at a hotel for three days. There's certainly worst places and worst conditions to be stranded in but I had already been travelling for nearly a month for work and missing my family terribly. I felt at an extreme low. I tried reading many things to distract me and pass the t ...more
I wanted to give this five stars. I loved the way it began. Jennifer Worth has an amazing ability to write about her past in vivid language, bringing situations and characters to life. I laughed and cried over each situation she described. My mother is a midwife so none of the births or medical terms and language bothered me, then came the chapter about prostitution.
I have watched the series so I knew there was a story with a young Irish girl who was trapped by greedy, powerful men in a life of
Ayelet Waldman
I alternated between wishing I'd had this kind of care and thanking God I hadn't.
3.5 stars.

I'm a sucker for babies, birth stories, and midwives tales, so I was all set to love this. I found it kind of lacking in coherence, though. It's a collection of loosely linked vignettes and I think it would have benefitted from a better editor.

Some of the stories kind of stood alone, some connected, and there was not much arc connecting the whole book. I found it interesting -- certainly I learned things about London that I had never known before, and much of it was shocking -- but I
Karen Wherlock
I loved this book. I read it a couple of years ago, before I knew about the PBS series, which I also enjoyed. It took place beginning in 1958, just a year before I was born, in the poorest part of London. My mom grew up "working class" in London, in an upstairs flat in a terraced house, one of 5 children who lived. She was economically a step above the women portrayed in the book, but only a small one. The book describes a London still struggling to recover from war. Rationing had only just ende ...more
What a heartwarming and at times funny way to visit the seedier side of London's East End slums post WWII. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook with narration by Nicola Barber whose cockney accent is good enough to sound cockney, but yet understandable for those of us who can barely understand a true cockney!

I cried for young Mary who was introduced into prostitution at the tender age of 14 years old; I rooted for Conchita who birthed a 28-week old baby, couldn't understand a word of
I enjoyed this book, but I sort of wanted more. I think my biggest problem was simply that Worth focused too much on the "colorful" characters she lived with, when I would have preferred to have heard more of the actual birth stories! She also kept hinting about some love of her life that hadn't worked out-- things like that tend to annoy me, especially in a memoir. If you're going to write a memoir, I feel you need to be brutally honest about yourself with your reader, so either give us the ent ...more
Katrina Noble
It was an incredible read that was marred by an obscenely disgusting chapter right smack dab in the middle that made me have to question whether I should continue or not. I did continue after skimming past the incredibly gross part and was glad that I did because the remaining stories were very interesting/unique and the final few were inspirational. I just really hated that such a wonderful read had to be almost ruined entirely by a poor editing choice. Granted this was based on real life exper ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 20, 2009 Sandy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who was ever a baby.
Who would ever think a memoir about midwifery could read like an action adventure? Not me. Nevertheless, Jennifer Worth's new book The Midwife, a Memoir of Brith, Joy, and Hard Times, does just that--at the same time it is as personal as journal and as informative as a social history of everyday life in the East End of London in the 1950s.

Worth writes with wit and insight as she brings to life the challenge of helping women lying at home on sagging beds bring into this world new life. She often
This book should come with a warning. I would hate for a 14 year old girl interested in midwifery to read this. I have read a lot of midwife memoirs, and they were nothing like this. It makes you want to take a shower. The rape of children, the systematic perversion of girls, detailed graphic public sex of a prostitute and multiple men. The author does well at describing what is seen, physically felt, and smelled. It is disgusting. If this book were made into a movie, it would be porn. I got a l ...more
Every bit as good as the television series! Even better, maybe, as the stories are rich with medical information and background history of midwifery and the professionalization of medicine in Europe. Plus, Chummy really was that delightful!

I was astonished by how many of the stories made it to tv nearly exactly as written. The warmth and naivete of Jenny's character in the series appears to be real. The poverty, the harsh living conditions, and the community spirit also seem to have been real. A
This was a difficult book to get into. I persevered and did enjoy some of the historical settings which were described about the slums of London, how the people lived and etc. My hair dresser liked this one so I thought I might too. However, I got about 3/4 of the way through and it started describing prostitution in way more detail than I wanted to know. So I have decided not to finish it, rare for me, and move on to something more uplifting.
The PBS series based on this book presented a remarkable visual portrait of London's East End in the 1950s. However, the book, as usual, has even more to offer.

Many of the situations in the series, like the birth of a mixed race baby to a white couple, are far more complex than depicted in the show. Jennifer Worth actually offers three tales of such births, only one of which had the happy ending shown on screen. But beyond that, she also reflects about why the father who embraced the black baby
This book was on display at my local library and I quickly picked it up on my way out the door. I'm so glad I did because I'm not sure I would have found it otherwise. It was an excellent read and so well written, I simply felt like I was there with the midwife in the poor London docks, post WWII. This is one of those books that makes you laugh one minute then cry the next. Heart-wrenching, page-turning, belly-laughing chapters are filled with characters both strong, loving, and loyal, and sleez ...more
Jody Phillips
This is a wonderful book BUT in order for me to recommend it I have to say right up front --I do NOT recommend reading the chapter titled Cable Street. It's filled with horror. I wish I had skipped it. Made me physically ill and was hard to shake.

Other than that it is a great read, well written, full of insight into human nature and the history of London Docklands. It is, of course, full of stories of birth and families with peeks at the life of the nuns she (the author) worked with.

My favorite
Sara Elise
I really enjoyed this book! I enjoy watching Call the Midwife, which is based upon Jennifer Worth's memoirs, and I've been wanting to read this book for some time.

Fans of Call the Midwife will recognise the central players in this book (Chummy, Cynthia, Sister Monica Joan, Sister Julienne and Sister Bernadette) but especially Jenny's presence is different in her memoirs than in the fictional account of her life, which I suppose is very natural, as she is the one doing the telling.
Fans will also
This is a very interesting read, although it’s not as focused on midwifery as you’d expect - it’s mostly the story of how poor people lived in the 1950’s in London’s East End, where the author worked as a nurse and midwife when she was a young woman. This has recently been adapted for a BBC television series which follows the book fairly closely.

The best stories do involve Jenny’s work as a midwife. One of my favorites is the detailed account of the first breech birth she witnessed: it was the m
Juliana Graham
I already had this book before the television series started but decided to read it after the latest series finished. Whilst some of the storylines are familiar and very similar to those from the TV show, the book is far grittier - there are no rose tinted spectacles here! I found the slight differences in characterisation very interesting - for example the main character (Jenny) is much sweeter in the TV series. In her autobiography Jennifer Worth has no qualms about painting herself warts and ...more
Stephanie Smith
I would have given this book five starts, as I really enjoyed it, were it not for the four chapters Ms. Worth dedicates to the topic of one girl and her experience with prostitution. Most of the stories in her book comprise one or two chapters, but she spends four entire chapters talking about Mary and how she became a prostitute. The topic itself was not what I found offensive but she very graphically describes the scene in the brothel where Mary first meets her fate. It is so graphic and so vu ...more
Let me begin by saying that this is not my kind of book at all. First, I always prefer fiction over alleged nonfiction, and second, I am not one of those women who thinks back to my labor and delivery as magical and beautiful. I situate myself more in the "Eve's curse" school of thought, and contrary to what Worth says, that women have no memory of the agony of childbirth, otherwise no woman would ever have a second child, I remember it all too well. Consequently, I have only one child, as one r ...more
I keep recommending this book to people who would never pick it up. Which is fine. East London midwifery in the 1950s isn't for everyone. But the nuns! Even if you have little to no interest in (or an aversion to) women's health and the evolution of maternity care, the nuns in this book are pretty awesome. Also the bikes. And the woman with 20 plus kids. Take that, Duggars. You've got nothing on Conchita Warren.
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  • A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
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  • Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First
  • Tales of a Midwife
Worth, born Jennifer Lee while her parents were on holiday in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, was raised in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. After leaving school at the age of 14, she learned shorthand and typing and became the secretary to the head of Dr Challoner's Grammar School. She then trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and moved to London to receive training to become a midwife.

More about Jennifer Worth...
Shadows of the Workhouse Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives Call the Midwife Boxed Set: Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, Farewell to the East End In the Midst of Life Tales from a Midwife

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