The Midwife of Venice
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The Midwife of Venice (Midwife series #1)

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3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  6,495 ratings  ·  983 reviews
At midnight, the dogs, cats, and rats rule Venice. The Ponte di Ghetto Nuovo, the bridge that leads to the ghetto, trembles under the weight of sacks of rotting vegetables, rancid fat, and vermin. Shapeless matter, perhaps animal, floats to the surface of Rio di San Girolamo and hovers on its greasy waters. Through the mist rising from the canal the cries and grunts of for...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Anchor Canada (first published January 1st 2011)
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Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry JonesWhite Heart by Sherry JonesThe Taker by Alma KatsuThe Midwife of Venice by Roberta RichDancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock
Women's Fiction 2012
4th out of 52 books — 129 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Help by Kathryn StockettCatching Fire by Suzanne CollinsMockingjay by Suzanne CollinsThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2012: What the Over 35s Have Read So Far
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Community Reviews

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Danielle Rossman
The Midwife of Venice by debut novelist Roberta Rich is full of great historical facts and truly does reveal the seamy and seedy side of 16th Century Venice. I was so delighted to find a new Historical novel that moves quickly and is so accurate in its portrayal of the times without trying to recapture history, but rather crafting a fresh story with new and thoroughly interesting characterizations. I was also very intrigued to learn of the enslavement of Jewish people in Italy because it is so h...more
Chris
Jan 30, 2011 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans who aren't squeamish about long, difficult childbirth scenes
Shelves: first-reads
I received The Midwife of Venice as a First-Reads giveaway copy.

The Midwife of Venice opens with a difficult and potentially very dangerous situation. Hannah, a Jewish midwife in Renaissance Venice, is approached by a Christian count to attend his wife, who has already been in labour for over two days. If she complies at all, she risks arrest for breaking the law against Jewish doctors and midwives attending Christian patients, although the law is sometimes ignored. If she complies and the mothe...more
Jennifer Rayment
The Good Stuff

Fast paced and intriguing, which surprised me
Likeable realistic characters that you cheer for that they will be able to overcome the obstacles and reunite
Storyline switches between Issac and Hannah's POV - which keeps you intrigued as many of the chapters end with an almost cliffhanger like ending and than it switches to the other character.
Didn't want to put the book down
Some beautiful touching moments that made me tear up
Author has a gift for making you see the landscape a...more
Shane
A fast paced page-turner of a historical novel about the triumph of love over adversity and pestilence.

Descriptions of 16th century Venice come alive, with stains, smells, garbage, sewage, excrement and blood—the underbelly of the city and its Jewish ghetto—evocatively drawn, although bombastic analogies such as sheep piss resembling “walking into the arsehole of a camel” did not compute for me.

The heroine, Hannah, a midwife living in the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, is determined to re-unite with h...more
Arlene

Hannah ha-Levi, a midwife in the Jewish ghetto, is known throughout Venice for her skill in midwifery. When a Christian count appears at Hannah's door imploring her to attend his labouring wife who is near death, Hannah's compassion is tested. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it's also punishable by torture ... and death. But Hannah cannot turn down the money. With such a handsome sum, she can save her own husband, Isaac, who was captured at sea and take...more
ruzmarì
Aug 25, 2012 ruzmarì rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody over the age and IQ of 13
With The Midwife of Venice, Roberta Rich has joined the hordes. By "hordes," I mean authors producing historical fiction about parts of the world that are legendary, which is to say mostly imaginary to them. Strangely, most are about 16th-century Italy, one region or another. Also, they tend to feature resourceful female protagonists whose pluck and daring gets them through the most unlikely adventures. There is usually some form of prejudice; a helper in the form of another social outsider (a r...more
Amber
I received The Midwife of Venice as a free giveaway from Goodreads. The book I received was an uncorrected proof and will be on sale Feb. 2011. I don't think I've included any spoilers but reader beware! and I apologize if I've ruined something for you.

I enjoy a good historical fiction, although Italy and the 1600s are not what I would normally pick up. Oh, and I LOVE a happy ending! I thoroughly liked this book, it was easy to read with only a few sentences in Italian (which I found easy to t...more
Megan Baxter
Welcome to another edition of Megan's Damning With Faint Praise!

This book is fine. It is readable, it didn't piss me off, I enjoyed it while I was reading it. These are things I almost always say about books I liked but inspired me to no passion, one way or another. And it's true in this case as well.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire...more
Shannon
This book was an easy read and kept my interest to the end. It was not a an intense social drama nor was it really an adventure story but a bit of both.

There were times when I had a hard time believing that Hannah could be so naive especially with regards to the uncles. There were a a number of plot points that were just a bit too contrived to make it a really good book but given that this is her first novel, it was interesting and fairly well constructed.

The pacing of the novel is spot on and f...more
Clarissa
The cadence of the words makes this historical fiction a nice, smooth read. Although the sentences are hypnotically smooth, the action is not. We are thrown right into the story and it doesn’t slow down. It’s an interesting mix.

The Midwife of Venice is about a Jewish woman living in a Ghetto in Venice during the 1500s. She is, of course, a midwife. During this time period, she was only allowed to help other Jewish women and was barred from helping Christians. Fortunately, or unfortunately, she b...more
Carla Ford
Loved this novel - I was able to completely fall for Hannah and sympathize with her as she follows her conscience and delivers a Christian baby, even though she is forbidden as a Jew to do so. She feels such a calling to use the talent she is blessed with and help relieve suffering if she is able. In trying to save the wife of a Christian count and his unborn baby, she knows that she is putting herself in danger, but she puts aside her misgivings and helps in the birth. She knows that if she is...more
Patty
This is a book about choices. Hannah is a midwife, a Jewish midwife living in the Ghetto in Venice and she is known to be able to help woman have babies that would usually die. She has created a device that she calls her "birthing spoons" to help ease a baby into the world but that others would see at a tool of the devil. She is a woman far ahead of her time.


One night a man, a count no less comes pounding at the door to the Ghetto begging for the famous midwife to come help his wife. She has bee...more
Lou Allin
Historical novels are rare, and well-written historicals even rarer. Most surprising, this novel is Canadian. North of the border, we try harder, like Avis.

Sixteenth-century Venice during the plague. Hannah Levi is a Jewish midwife with a husband captured by the predatory Knights of St. John in far-off Malta. Foremost on her mind is how to pay his ransom. Then a miracle happens, promising both danger and salvation. She is asked to attend a difficult delivery for a wealthy Christian family. Succe...more
Pau
I read this book because Elle Fowler has read it. Granted that Elle Fowler enjoys reading YA, I should not have set my hopes too high for this one. I truly enjoy reading historical fiction as I like history. I love how historical fiction authors take the time to use what they've found in their research for that era and weave into a story.

This book did not do it for me. It was a really *really* light read. If you're looking for something to kill the time with a book that wouldn't make you laugh...more
Kristy
Roberta Rich is an author who appears to eschew the conventional idea of tension-and-release. Bad events and circumstances continue to pile upon more of the same for poor protagonists Hannah and Isaac. Just when it seems things can’t possibly get any worse… oh no! – they do. Gruesome births, kidnapped babies and murder, oh my! And that’s only Hannah’s experience. Readers need (or at least I do) occasional reprieve from rising intensity. And it finally does come – but very abruptly in the form of...more
Jessica James
Allow me to explain. I liked this book but I did not love it. It was fascinating from a historical point of view, Roberta Rich has done some painstaking research into her setting and the religious feuds and prejudices that existed at the time between the Jews and the Christians, especially in Venice. The story follows Hannah, a Jewish midwife from the ghetto, often compared throughout the novel to a timid mouse, who breaks the law by delivering the child of a Christian couple so she can earn eno...more
Geetha
“The Midwife of Venice” by Roberta Rich is the story of Hannah and Isaac Levi, a Jewish couple living in Venice. Hannah is a midwife and Isaac a trader. A Christian nobleman, asks Hannah to help his wife who has been in labour for two days. Hannah helps the Christian woman, against the counsel of her Rabbi who reminds her that for a Jew to render medical assistance to a Christian is against the law. As the story opens, Isaac has been captured in Malta and is enduring much suffering as a slave bu...more
Gaile
This is not your typical midwife story. Granted it starts with a delivery of a baby. The Jewish midwife, Hannah is called to a Christian home to deliver the heir of a wealthy man. (Against the law)The Conte DePadovadi is desperate. Hannah has a secret instrument she had made and which she named her cupping spoons. This resembles a pair of modern forceps but in this time of history it is seen as witchcraft. Once the baby is safely delivered, Hannah is reluctant to leave, feeling a tug to the new...more
Dr.
This is one of the best historical novels I have read. I contains something for everyone within its pages.
It held my attention and kept me reading.
I thought I wouldn't like it because it was historical with religious themes...and it was a a first novel by Ms. Rich. But I enjoyed it a lot. I learned a lot from it about Being a Jew as well as a Christian during time in history. I also learned so much about being a midwife that I was not aware of before.
This novel has enough suspense to keep read...more
Lynn
Really enjoyed this book. It is the story of a Jewish midwife named Hannah who lives in Venice in the 16th century. The story begins with a knock on Hannah's door in the middle of the night. A Christian nobleman has come to seek her services for his wife who has been labouring for two days. In that period of time, it is against the law for a Jew to provide medical services to a Christian. Hannah risks all in order to get enough money to pay a ransom for her husband Isaac, who has been sold into...more
Jan
This novel is set in Venice in 1575. Hannah Levi is a well known and respected midwife. She is especially gifted with difficult births often using a device of her own design, birthing spoons. Hannah is Jewish and when a Christian count comes to her to help his wife she has to weigh the situation before helping them. The Pope has forbidden Jews to practice medicine on Christians. The count offers a sum large enough to enable Hannah to ransom her husband who was captured at sea and is being held i...more
lisa
The bones of a good story are here, but as it is, this book was not a satisfying read. One-dimensional characters who did not develop at all, lack of thematic elements to bind the two separate storylines together, and a plot that lurched predictably from event to event to a weirdly anticlimactic climax and ending. The writing, however, was engaging, and I think this author has a good voice. She just needs to spend a lot more time developing a decent story.
Jennifer
Just a really dreadful book, full of cliches and inconsistent characters. The narrative structure did not work at all. The alternating viewpoints between Hannah and Isaac were annoying since each one ended breathlessly with a dramatic cliffhanger: will she get the spoons back? Will Isaac convert to Christianity??
Truly, some of the worst drivel I've read in a LONG time!! It only adds to my despair that she is writing a sequel...
Deirdre
I should have liked this, but for whatever reason I just didn't.
A woman suceeding in a eralistic occupation with agency should work for me, but it all seemed a bit helter skelter.
I didn't really get the motivation of Hannah, nor indeed of Levi. I didn't understand why the Rabbi was so invested in their actions. How did Hannah's fame rise to a level that a Comte would know about her, while the Prosecutti didn't? Disaster piled upon disaster until I just didn't care.
Positives included
- it was ea...more
Michelle (Michelle&Leslie's Book Picks)
I really, really liked this one! Well-written and well-researched. Great characters in Hannah and Isaac. Interesting subjects with being a midwife in 16th century Venice--that birthing scene: OMG!! Full review to come.

UPDATE 5/9/2012: My full review -

I don't usually read historical fiction (unless it's a romance novel) but I was drawn to the cover of The Midwife of Venice and after reading the summary and a few reviews, I've surmised that there's no crazy affairs and/or secret lovers in the nove...more
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
'They say you have magic in your hands.'

The year is 1575, and late one night in the Jewish ghetto in Venice, midwife Hannah Levi receives a visit from two men asking her to attend the birth of a child, to assist and use her renowned skill in her profession to help this woman through a particularly difficult birth. For the Conte di Padovani, the father of the child, Hannah is his last hope. However, Hannah is Jewish, and the woman involved is a Christian. It is unheard of, indeed forbidden, for h...more
Meryl
There was a lot of potential in this story line, but the writing didn't live up to it. The passage of time was spotty and inconsistent, and there was little or no attempt to make sense of that. (view spoiler)...more
Denise
3.0 out of 5 stars - Intrigue and treachery...

Hannah is a midwife in Venice, a Jewish woman living in the ghetto area there. Her husband, Isaac, has recently left on a ship to Constantinople with silk to sell and the intent to return to his wife with the profits and some spices. Unfortunately, his ship is highjacked by those in the pay of the Knights of Malta and he is captured and sold as a slave. Hannah desperately needs the money to ransom him so when a rich count begs her to attend his labo...more
Luanne Ollivier
The Midwife of Venice is Roberta Rich's debut novel. And it's one I wouldn't have discovered on my own - so, thanks Jessica for the great recommendation!

Hannah Levi is a midwife in the Jewish ghetto of Venice in 1575. When a Christian nobleman asks her to attend his wife, she initially refuses. After all, it is forbidden by law for a Jew to give care to a Christian. But he is desperate - his wife has been labouring for 2 days and is near death. Against the wishes of her rabbi, Hannah agrees - th...more
Ruth
c2011. So, this book was the first book I have ever received as a giveaway and I am not ashamed to say that I behaved like a total teenager by jumping up and down and squealing when I first found out that it was on its way- so a BIG thank you to the publishers that sent it to me. It seems to me that it is not often that you get a stand alone book that is not part of a series and seems to have no intention of being the first in a series. There is a definite ending to the story,(although there are...more
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4086369
I was born on January 9th. Not the best time to be born if your birthplace happens to be the buckle on the snow belt, Buffalo, New York. Buffalo remained my home until I struck out on my own and managed to get 73 miles down the New York State Freeway to Rochester. My life took a turn for the better- better climate, better opportunities.
Writers of a certain vintage always seem to boast of the varie...more
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