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The Midwife of Venice

(Midwife #1)

by
3.59  ·  Rating details ·  11,260 ratings  ·  1,323 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 ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Anchor Canada
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  11,260 ratings  ·  1,323 reviews


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Megan Baxter
Jan 24, 2012 rated it liked it
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Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement.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
ruzmarì
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Victoria
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me just say that I wish this novel was longer! Three hundred pages are not enough for this amazingness.

Hannah is a Jewess, a midwife, and a wife living in the 16th century Venice. Her husband was captured and sold into slavery on Malta. When he realized that nobody is going to save him, he is trying to find his own ways to survive, escape and get back to Venice.
In the meantime, a wealthy and powerful Count is asking Hannah’s help to deliver his wife’s baby and save him, since it is his last
...more
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 ...more
Natasa
Jul 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Medieval Venice and its Jewish Ghetto and the rest of Venice is fascinating, the story reads quickly, like a good soap, which is what I thought it was. Each chapter ends with our heroine about to confront another crisis, that we never doubt she will overcome, even when it’s gynecological or obstetrics.
Leona
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a quick read and I liked some of the historical perspectives of life in 1500 Venice. However as other reviewers indicated, everything was a bit too black and white with herculean actions that became unbelievable for 1500 Venice.
Krista
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
“Odd that you should choose to be a midwife, having never experienced birth yourself.”

In other circumstances the words would have stung. She thought, Do not physicians provide medicaments for illnesses they have never suffered? But Hannah held her tongue. Two in her care were suspended between life and death. She had more important matters to worry about.

I want to start with a caveat: I don't tend to read historical fiction, and if I did, I wouldn't be looking for historical fiction built
...more
Meri
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
Book that starts so faceless and little bit boring , it turns to a unbelievable and amazing story. Through the adversity of a Jewish midwife, we are a silent witness of one dark side of Venice history from one side, and one great love... love for a husband, for a child, for one simple life, from the other side.
Chris
Jan 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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
...more
Jennifer Rayment
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Faith Justice
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
Chose this book to read on a long plane trip because it was short and I needed something light to divert me--in that it succeeded. I had higher hopes for the book: an interesting setting and a strong protagonist. However, I found the writing rushed, the plot twists strained (some to implausibility), and the characters insufficiently developed. I read the ebook version and was totally surprised when it ended. I thought I had another 30-40 pages to go. I felt the book needed a few more pages to ...more
MAP
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Frankly, I only read this book because I was interested in the sequel. Now I'm nervous about the sequel.

This book follows Hannah, a Jewish midwife in Venice, as she tries to rescue her husband from slavery in Malta. Unfortunately, the book managed to be stressful and unpleasant without ever being suspenseful. This is in large part due to the complete lack of nuanced characters. Hannah and Isaac are good and pure and smart. Everyone else is eeeeeevil. No motives, no character, just evil. And the
...more
Shane
Jan 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
...more
Carla Ford
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nora Lipfeld
May 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
It was as promising at the beginning as disappointing in the end.
Helena
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After 2 years I can finally remove this from my tbr.

Lets be honest for a moment, this was a cover buy. Like, just look at it. Other than that, the story didn't wow me. I stopped paying much attention when the author told us Hana, the protagonist, had a bone fracture but didn't notice it for days cause she was sad. To make the things even worse, she's a midwife. Yeah, no thanks.
Halle Farber
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
It's "Days of Our Lives" with an Italian accent ... completely implausible ... I kept thinking the evil Stefano was going to jump into the story and kidnap Bo or Hope. If I wasn't reading this for my book group, I'm not sure I would have pushed myself to finish it.

The plot was interesting enough, but real character development and emotional resonance were lacking. An example ... I don't want to give anything away, but it doesn't hurt to mention here that the heroine in the story is a midwife
...more
Amber
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Pau
May 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Arlene
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it

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
...more
Dr.
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
lisa
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2011, book-club
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.
Lesley
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Good story, simple but full of detail on the midwife ways and the history between jews and christians
Andrea Z
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
Interesting, engrossing story but completely implausible and written for a third-grader.
Lisa Wolf
A very up-and-down reading experience for me:

I found the plotlines revolving around Hannah's midwife practice very compelling. It was fascinating to learn more about the role of midwives at that time (1575). Of course, we know that childbirth was a hazardous undertaking for women prior to the advent of modern medicine, but seeing it up close through Hannah's experiences really drives home how risky it was and how closely death would hover for both mother and child. On top of the risks of
...more
Norain
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: italy
Maybe it was because I expected something different from this book so I got disappointed. Or maybe it is just not that good? All I know is I wanted to read about midwifery in the bygone days but except for two places, one at the beginning and one near the end, the information has been sparse. Instead it is more of an adventure story of Hannah, the Jewish midwife who is trying to save a gentile baby from his evil uncles and Isaac, Hannah's husband who got captured and sold as slave and is ...more
Geetha
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
“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 ...more
Lou Allin
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
...more
Patty
Feb 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jessica James
Jan 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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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
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Other books in the series

Midwife (3 books)
  • The Harem Midwife (Midwife #2)
  • A Trial in Venice (Midwife #3)
“You might try herbs—fenugreek and blessed chisel are known to help the supply of milk.” 1 likes
“Odd that you should choose to be a midwife, having never experienced birth yourself.” In other circumstances the words would have stung. She thought, Do not physicians provide medicaments for illnesses they have never suffered?” 1 likes
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