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Shadows of the Workhouse (The Midwife Trilogy #2)

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  12,350 Ratings  ·  1,219 Reviews
In this follow up to CALL THE MIDWIFE, Jennifer Worth, a midwife working in the docklands area of East London in the 1950s tells more stories about the people she encountered.

There's Jane, who cleaned and generally helped out at Nonnatus House - she was taken to the workhouse as a baby and was allegedly the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat. Peggy and Frank's parents
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published June 30th 2008 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published 2005)
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Popular Answered Questions

^ has an interesting and well written article on the American history of peanut butter.

My hunch is that…more has an interesting and well written article on the American history of peanut butter.

My hunch is that calorie-rich peanut butter may have been first shipped from the USA to Britain during the Second World War, as part of the war effort. US food shipments were crucial to Allied success. Contact the Imperial War Museum in London. IWM London (Telephone: +44 (0)20 7416 5000). They'll have someone who, unlike me, knows for sure.

I own a copy of a British book, published in 1951, the year of the Festival of Britain. which contains (amongst many other recipes), fifteen(!) different recipes for sandwiches containing ‘pea-nut’ butter. Well worth hunting out if you’re ever out of ideas for sandwich fillings.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Petra Eggs
This is a charming book. It is the memories of a woman who was a young midwife in the 50s in the post-war, poverty-stricken East End of London where little had moved on since Edwardian and even Victorian times. She worked and lived in a convent of nursing nuns and writes both of her patients in the community and their colourful, if difficult lives, and the nuns she lives with.

Generally speaking, memoirs of the religious life show nuns in a somewhat dour, if respectful, light. Jennifer Worth rat
Mar 14, 2015 Eve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, read-2015
I could kick myself for not having written a review for the first book in Worth’s trilogy (Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times), about her life as an East End London midwife in the 1950s. I guess I could technically write one now, but my memory is so shoddy, and I don’t even have my highlighted and flagged hard copy to reference. What I can tell you about the first book is that I bawled!

This book didn’t make me bawl, but it was an amazing sociological read, and the tears ran
Jul 01, 2012 Ana rated it liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed "Call the Midwife" and started this follow up to it with great expectations. The problem was I'd also seen the BBC mini-series based on these books and found too much of the book familiar. But that's not the author's fault, except that her prose this time just didn't seem to grab me as it did in the first book. While I read her first book in a day or so, it took me weeks to get around to finishing this one.

And as another reviewer pointed out, this one just didn't feel as tr
I included this book on my British Charm shelf, even though some of the stories were not charming at all -- they were gut-wrenching.

Jennifer Worth was a midwife in London's East End in the 1950s. This is the second book in her "Call the Midwife" series, and while the first one focused on stories of pregnant mothers, this one had hardly any childbirth scenes and instead revolved around the memories of those who spent time or grew up in the workhouses.

I had heard of London's workhouses, but had n

This wasn't quite good as Call the Midwife… I still really liked it but it was missing some of the charm and honesty of the first book. The last section (Mr Collett's) though was absolutely wonderful in a deeply depressing sort of way.

-The first book read more like a memoir whereas this one at times read like a fiction book, especially Jane/Frank/Peggy's part. Even though their story was true, I wasn't convinced by Jenny writing from their perspective as if she herself had lived through
Dec 22, 2012 ^ rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Especially to social workers, nurses, and care workers
A deeply eye-opening and very emotionally moving book.

Laid out in three parts, this volume essentially contains six true stories: Jane’s life at Nonnatus Convent; the upbringing in the workhouse of Jane, Frank and Peggy; the deaths of Frank and Peggy; the marriage of the Revd. Mr Applebee-Thornton; the court trial of Sister Monica Joan; and the life and death of the old soldier, Mr Joseph Collett. The third, fifth, and sixth of those are covered in the first series (2012) of the BBC television
Feb 03, 2017 Darlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Early last year (2016), I discovered the first book in 'The Midwife Trilogy' called 'The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times' written by Jennifer Worth. Now that I have finished listening to the audiobook of the second book in this trilogy, I very much regret that I did not take the time to write a review of the first book in the series. This trilogy, a memoir of sorts, describes Jennifer Worth's experiences as a midwife in London's East End in the 1950s. The first book in the series ...more
Susan Hirtz
Jun 21, 2013 Susan Hirtz rated it it was amazing
Television dramas cannot compare with the suffering and terrible grief occurring in the East End of London for close to two hundred years. Programs like Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge disguise but only allude to real conditions of ordinary working class people. Ms. Worth tells the actual story of East London Cockneys: horrific, dark, sadistic workhouses where the poor were imprisoned and made to do forced labor, not to mention the all-consuming later grief of survivors from WWII Nazi bombing.

Nov 29, 2012 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: justice-racism
Jennifer Worth worked as a midwife and nurse with an order of nuns in the 1950s. I loved her previous book, The Midwife. In this book, she revisits the setting and many of the same people. It is not all about the workhouse, as I expected from the title, but about the times and culture in which the workhouse existed up into the 1950s. It tells the stories of several people whom the author met while doing her work: Three people who spent their childhoods in the workhouse and were close to each oth ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Laurie rated it it was amazing
This sequel to Call The Midwife was just as fascinating and touching as the 1st book.
I highly recommend these books to all history lovers.
Jun 23, 2010 Dawn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone should read it
Recommended to Dawn by: No-one
Shelves: biography
I love this author - she writes so redemptively. The author chronicles a lot of sadness of the poor in this book and it will take a few days for some of it to sink in, and parts of the book really affected me emotionally.

Interestingly my own mother-in-law, who died in 1997 aged 82, was petrified of going into hospital because she associated with the Workhouse. Eventually she did go into hospital, but she was so terrified and distraught - even though the hospital was very nice - that in the end
May 27, 2012 Losososdiane rated it it was ok
This is the weakest of the three books written by Jennifer Worth about her experiences in the East End. I read the other two first. The stories she tells are interesting and sobering in light of the cruel and ignorant statements I see today about those who, for a variety of reasons, cannot make the transition to the economy of the 21st century. The harshness of the work house seems only a step away today. I think we are still dealing with the dislocation of lifestyle and vocation that began in t ...more
Not quite as gripping as the first book in the series, but still an excellent read.

The first section, dealing most specifically with the children of the workhouse, was horrifying and heartbreaking to read. Unfortunately, the very style that Worth employs to make it more real and personal - telling the stories from the children's perspective - also works against her in making it seem more like fiction. That's the difficulty, I think, in trying to include other people's lives in a memoir. I did en
Jun 19, 2014 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jennifer Worth is a first rate story teller. Her memoirs of living and working as a nurse and midwife in the East of London in the 1950's are some of the best books I've read in a long time. These stories are poignant and will bring a tear to your eyes. She tells of the conditions of the poor with straightforward honesty and pulls no punches.

Even though the "work houses" were officially abolished in 1930, they remained in actual practice long after that time, and they functioned under different
Naomi Sarah
Aug 17, 2016 Naomi Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Excellent, as expected - and heartbreaking to read those stories that took place in the shadows of the workhouse.

1. I LOVE Jenny and co - I wish there would have been more Trixie and Chummy, though!
2. The Monica Joan incident makes me laugh. She's so funny.
4. The story of Joe, the old man, is terribly sweet. The episode in the TV series made me bawl my eyes out.
5. Jane and Peggy and Frank DESERVED WAY MORE.
Aug 02, 2015 Negin rated it it was amazing
Yet another gorgeously written and utterly captivating book in the “Call the Midwife” series. The characters are truly memorable. Once again, I experienced an entire gamut of emotions – sobbing in some parts and laughing in others.
Oct 17, 2015 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: would-read-again
I seriously love curling up with the stories of the midwives. This particular book was difficult to read though with the descriptions of workhouse conditions. It's hard to believe that these places existed. The book was sprinkled with fun stories throughout as well to combat the sad ones.
Sep 01, 2013 KnowledgeGeek rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites

After devouring, within 2 days, and very much enjoying the first book in this trilogy entitled Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times, which is presented in a more traditional memoir format, I'm sorry have to admit that I’m ever so slightly irritated with the second book.
Whereas the first book was more expressive of Mrs. Worth’s own personal experiences as both a nurse and midwife and spoke of several of her patients, the second book in the series is more of a social commentary
This book is unfortunately problematic. I read Worth's first memoir several years ago and I enjoyed it far more, and the reason is simple: while in Call the Midwife you largely follow her personal experiences, here you rarely focus on Worth herself. It is split into three sections, each focusing on a different person (or group of people) that she knew.

As much as I believe her general representation of the era, I admit that her writing style here made me raise a cynical eyebrow far too often for
Jul 23, 2013 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this memoir just as much as the first installment if not more. I originally picked up the books because I really like the television show based on them, but I confess the books are as always so much better. Ms. Worth's wry sense of humor and sassy quips don't come through in the Jenny Lee character on screen, but they simply make this memoir. This book also contains searing political commentary, accurate historical information, the joys and terror of birth and families, and the best and ...more
Mar 25, 2013 Sabina rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This is the second book by Jennifer Worth about her time as a midwife in London's East End during the 1950s. I loved the first book, Call the Midwife, and this one didn't disappoint either. Once again, Worth recounts the grinding poverty and unimaginable living conditions of the day. Once again, I'm astounded that this is a time within living memory and not some distant century; my mother would have been a young girl then.

As in Call the Midwife, there is a lot of background information about th
Nov 27, 2014 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This volume of Jennifer Worth's memoirs focuses on her experiences with people in her Poplar community whose lives were irrevocably impacted by the workhouses. I feel like this is such important reading, because it's so easy to forget how recently these institutions loomed large in the minds of folks living in poverty. I thought of them as a Victorian institution, and in a way they were, but it's easy to forget that in 1950, the "Victorian era" was astonishingly recent -- and the workhouses did ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Kingfan30 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-stories
This book is split into three parts, the first being about three people who had spent their time in workhouses and how it affected their lives. This was horrific reading at times, but interesting.

The second is about the trial of a nun who the author worked with, which I found quite tedious at times.

The third part was about an elderly gentleman that the author treated which was an interesting story and he reminded me of my father-in-law.

Overall an interesting read but with not a huge amount of wo
Carol Rogers
Mar 13, 2014 Carol Rogers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what a book. I had read Volume 1 which I had really enjoyed and of course had watched the tv show. I expected more of the same from Volume 2 as I eagerly started reading. Instead of more stories about babies being born in the East End of London, I started getting involved in the first of 3 longer stories about people other than pregnant women whose lives were part of Nurse Jenny Lee's work and life.

Jennifer Worth is an extremely engaging writer. She is writing the life stories of people who
Book two of the Call The Midwife trilogy.

When I started reading this one I really wasn't sure about it. It has very little to do with Jennifer Worth's work as a midwife, and more to do with the examination of how the workhouse system affected the lives of some of her older patients.

At the beginning, she recreates the early lives of three people she has known whose early lives were spent in the Poplar workhouse - Jane, the illegitimate child of and affair between her mother (a servant) and her em
Jul 14, 2015 Niina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Jennifer Worthin omaelämäkerran toinen osa Hakekaa kätilö 2 - Kaupungin varjoissa on teoksena ehkä jopa edellistä sujuvampi luettava. Worth kirjoittaa kokemuksistaan ja tapaamistaan ihmisistä romaanimuodossa. Onkin siis helppoa sujahtaa 1950-luvun Lontoon vilkkaiden satamakatujen kuhinaan. Aivan yhtä paljon en kuitenkaan saanut teoksesta irti kuin ensimmäisestä osasta. Se ei silti tee tästä huonoa teosta, hyvin surullisen vain.

Nyt kätilöhommat ovat sivuroolissa ja Worth kertoo kolmesta eri ta
Aug 17, 2013 Abbs rated it it was amazing
A brilliant piece of historical literature. Written with numbing clarity, this novel opens up a world that I would never want to live in. The horrors that countless people endured just to see the next day's dawn, I don't think I would have had the resilience to survive myself. As with every other literary piece I have read, this novel is more gripping than its televised version. Specifically, I enjoyed that Jane had a proper ending to her story by marring the Reverend. The descriptions of what h ...more
Jul 04, 2013 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not as eloquent as some when I write a review but let me give it a go! I enjoyed reading Jenny Lee's journal of her work as a midwife in the East End of London among the poor and impoverished. One thought that stood out to me was that when the poor are left to their own devices, they become as the animals. I learned from this that not only are we to help in the poor just because they need it but that we also need to raise them up so they realize their worth and potential.

I enjoyed her acco
May 14, 2015 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history, 2015
Still so fascinating. This one was not about midwifery, instead it was predominantly about the workhouses. Rather than many small stories like the first book this one has five main stories: a brother and sister and their friend who grew up in the workhouse, ancient Sister Monica Joan is accused of thievery and goes to trial, and the very best story is last about the history and current condition of an elderly ex-soldier Jenny works with daily and forms a strong friendship with.
The first stories
Oct 24, 2015 beatricks marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I semi-accidentally started listening to this on Hoopla and figured I might as well keep going since I had been interested in learning more about workhouses. I bailed after a couple of hours, however, as all I had learned was that Worth claims to have a) silently watched a shopkeeper trick an extremely innocent woman into buying a dildo as a Christmas present for a nun and not said anything, and b) omniscient knowledge of the miserable childhoods of others. That is to say, this is a work of high ...more
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  • The Life and Times of Call the Midwife: The Official Companion to Season One and Two
  • Yes Sister, No Sister: My Life as a Trainee Nurse in 1950s Yorkshire
  • The Midwife's Here! The Enchanting True Story of One of Britain's Longest Serving Midwives
  • Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49
  • The Sugar Girls: Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle’s East End
  • Nurse On Call: The True Story of a 1950s District Nurse
  • Twelve Babies on a Bike: Diary of a Pupil Midwife
  • Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart- A Midwife's Saga
  • A Midwife's Story
  • Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
  • Tales of a Midwife
  • The Road to Nab End
  • Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge
  • Catching Babies: A Midwife's Tale
  • My East End: Memories of Life in Cockney London
  • Dr. Johnson's London
  • Testament of Experience
  • Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One
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...

Other Books in the Series

The Midwife Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
  • Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives

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