Joyce's Reviews > Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
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's review
Oct 04, 2012

it was amazing
Read from October 04 to 08, 2012

From the cover of my edition I thought this would be kind of a fluffy British comedy with a little childbirth thrown in. How pleased I am that I was wrong. Jennifer Worth writes a good history of East Enders in the 1950's that includes discussion of poverty in its various forms from the loving families and supportive community of Poplar to the squalor and hopelessness of the condemned bombed out buildings inhabited by prostitutes, pimps and a few left behind family people in Stepney. She demonstrates the activities of a midwife of that time by describing the care of various characters, has a good side story about life in a workhouse, fleshes out the character of a grouchy old midwife-nun and describes horrible odors in a way that makes this reader grimace. As important as Worth's historical accuracy is her emotional accuracy as she confronts people living in poverty and grows from her natural middle class revulsion to an attitude of acceptance. Less successful, to me, was the accommodation she made with religion, but I guess that was a normal outgrowth of the respect for the hard working nuns who trained her. For linguists there's an addendum that describes the difficulties of writing the Cockney dialect. PBS has a good mini-series about the book that does fluff it up and tone down some of Worth's grittiness, and in the interest of not needing subtitles, leaves out the dialect Worth so lovingly describes.

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