Parismaddy's Reviews > The Midwife of Venice

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
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Apr 24, 12

Read in April, 2012

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich is a period novel set in Venice, 1575.
The story concerns Hannah Levi, a Jewish midwife, and Isaac, her husband currently enslaved in Malta. Isaac was captured by mercenaries while on a trading voyage.

Hannah's skills in midwifery are well known among the Venetian nobility which prompts a late night visit by the Conte di Padovani beseeching her to come to the aid of his near-death wife. Hannah needs money to free her husband thus takes on helping the wealthy Conte du Padovani's wife to deliver the child they have been longing for.

A Papal edict forbids Jews from socializing or providing medical treatment to Christians but Hannah agrees to take the risk if the Count will pay her enough to ransom her husband. He agrees and so begins a compelling and descriptive tale that brings the Venice Ghetto to life.

Having visited Venice last year and being utterly fascinated by the Ghetto Nuovo I can totally understand Ms. RIch's desire to pen a story set there. While not the heavy hitting historical I much prefer the author managed to weave in blackmail, murder, and a grimy picture of the greasy canals, as well as an understanding of just how isolated the Jews were kept in sixteenth century Venice.

The Conte doles out instructions to save the baby if a choice has to be made. Will the baby survive? Each chapter coaxes the reader to keep turning the pages to find out.

Will Hannah overcome the treachery that surrounds her decision to help the wealthy Conte? Will Issac and Hannah be reunited? With a lavish flourish the story unfolds like the rustling silks of the day.

While some sections of the book seemed like they needed more development overall Rich has created some strong and fierce characters in an enjoyable and easy read.
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