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

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  26,568 ratings  ·  3,766 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
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Hardcover, 340 pages
Published 2007 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published 2002)
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Jeslyn Disturbing passage of a botched abortion, and horrific passage concerning a young woman coerced into the red-light district by a charismatic young man…moreDisturbing passage of a botched abortion, and horrific passage concerning a young woman coerced into the red-light district by a charismatic young man and her experiences in a whorehouse would definitely keep this book out of the hands of any young teens I know - or older teens, for that matter. I was conflicted, because the rest of the book was very good and had some terrific scenarios, but ultimately I didn't rate or review it because these two passages were so disturbing to read, and stayed with me after reading the book - and not in a good way. Good to know that the subsequent books might be worse - will have to skip them, despite the author's excellent writing. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Corinne
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
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Alaine
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
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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
Chrissie
I see now that this is the first book of a series: http://www.goodreads.com/series/77112...

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,
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Diane Librarian
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
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Cindy
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
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Carol
Post war London with its bombed out buildings and slums is the setting for much of this interesting and entertaining non-fiction read. There are so many incredible stories in this memoir by Jennifer Worth that it is difficult to pick a favorite, but I loved Chummy with her big ole heart, old-fashioned bicycle and her hero Jack who, as you will see, did become important in his day. Mary's story of prostitution is sad and touching, but Mrs. Jenkin's surrender to the workhouse is just beyond words. ...more
Hayley
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
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Ferdy
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
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Ayelet Waldman
I alternated between wishing I'd had this kind of care and thanking God I hadn't.
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
Sarah
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
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Kelly
I watched the BBC series Call the Midwife before I read this, and knew I would not be able to be objective about it. I already knew all the beautiful people in the book before I started. I wouldn't know where to start if I were to enumerate all of them. Some are nuns, some are young midwives, some are courageous mothers doing their best in impossible situations, some amazing fathers providing and caring for their family in horrendous circumstances, and some piteous brave children surviving the u ...more
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 6 children who lived. Three children did not. 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. Rati ...more
Christina
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
Robyn
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
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Alanna
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
Blandine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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Judy
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
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Emma
Guys, this book.

THIS BOOK.

This book was just gorgeous.

Yes, it had pretty graphic descriptions of birth.

Yes, if you have seen the show then it's pretty similar.

But this book was touching, funny, and above all, fascinating.

I love memoirs especially of women doing amazing things. And these women, these nurses, nuns, and midwives did amazing things.

Honestly, give this a shot. It's a quick, heartbreaking, wonderful, and a great read.
Emily
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
Robin
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
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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
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Karen P
Thoroughly enjoyed this book! All the more so because the stories are true! - but to my friends whom I would recommend this book to I must give a warning of a few pages that I wish I had skipped: The midwife encounters a pregnant prostitute, Mary, and in this book devotes a couple chapters to the background, birth, and postpartum of this mother. This story is meaningful, and not to be entirely passed over, but there is a description of how Mary is brought into the brothel, and her witness of a s ...more
Sandy
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
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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
Kimberley doruyter
such amazing rememberance.
everyone should read this book.
Jessie
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.
Joy
I received a copy of this book when we donated some money to our local PBS station and it was one of the gifts. My husband and I loved the BBC series that was on PBS. Looking forward to reading the book. I understand that the author died before the series aired...How sad.

This is a wonderful book. The TV series is also very well done. I highly recommend both!
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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.

L
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More about Jennifer Worth...

Other Books in the Series

The Midwife Trilogy (3 books)
  • Shadows of the Workhouse
  • Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives
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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“That's the trouble, I can't forget him. He was everything to me, except mine.” 84 likes
“Their devotion showed me there were no versions of love there was only... Love. That it had no equal and that it was worth searching for, even if that search took a lifetime.” 69 likes
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