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The Birth House
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Charmaine (wistad) So, are we ready to start discussing this yet? I'm on Chapter 12. So far, I'm really liking the writing style as well as the characters and setting. Having been to Nova Scotia several times myself, I can tell that the author really knows the area because of some of the details she's included in this book. One very cute and interesting detail is in chpt. 3 where she writes:"Mother went back to stirring a big pot of beans on the stove, wiping her brow as she inhaled the word 'yes'." This is exactly how the local people in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia say the word 'yes'. (Anne Marie, you'll know what I'm talking about.) I thought that was pretty cool that this author included such a distinct detail about the vernacular of people from that part of the world.


Annie | 52 comments Mod
I love that Dora loves Jane Austen!
Also, all the different birthing stories are fascinating... I bet the author went along on some midwife calls for research during the writing of this book :)
I'm on chapter 6 or 7 and it is very enthralling! I've never been to Nova Scotia but that doesn't seem to take away from anything - Ami McKay is a talented authoress :)


Anne Marie (annemariewistad) | 47 comments Mod
Charmaine: I noticed that RIGHT away. It definitely made me smile and I was instantly back in Cape Breton sitting in Eleanor's kitchen. :-)

I'm LOVING the styel and flow of the writing so far. I was hooked from page one. Easy to follow and get into the story and keeps you reading. I'm on Chap 4, so more comments to come as we go along!

Annie: I agree. That made me smile as well. What a fun little added detail!


Charmaine (wistad) How's everyone doing with this book? I'm about 1/2 way through it. I'm not finding a lot of time to read right now. But I really want to finish it. I guess I'll have to renew it from the library one more time.


Annie | 52 comments Mod
Okay so I have been an abysmal book club friend! I finished this book a couple weeks ago and have been too busy to make any comments!
I actually really enjoyed it! It took a lot of twists and turns which kept me on my toes. One of the more unexpected aspects of this book that got me thinking was the topic of female sexuality and fertility 100 years ago! Who else thought the doctor from Canning was psycho?!


Anne Marie (annemariewistad) | 47 comments Mod
I absolutely agree! The Doctor was very pushy, rude and in my opinion very creepy! A few of the scenes had me wondering what exactly he was thinking, but they never really say.... I did NOT like that man.

I really did enjoy this book. It wasn't what I was expecting at first but it did hold my attention and kept me reading.

As Annie said definitely made you think about what it would have been like to live back then. On many issues! Fertility and Birth control being just a few! And then too, what was "frowned upon" in their society and what exactly was expecting from a woman by her husband and the community. Very interesting stuff! I found a lot of the little "Newspaper clippings" and letters to add a lot of interest while reading as well.

What did people think of Mrs. B and all of her superstitions and potions? How much do think actually worked and how much was superstition? I think a lot of her ideas when it came to birthing, although primitive, were rather clever!


Charmaine (wistad) Mrs. B. was a lovable but quirky and mysterious lady. I liked her character and how she was able to "read" people. She was probably a lot like some of my old French Canadian ancestors: no nonsense - just tell it like it is. As for her "techniques"...well... I'm sure some of the practical stuff might have worked. But all the incantations and calling upon the Blessed Mother - probably not. It may have helped HER though - because if you think something is going to help then sometimes it does. Right?


Anne Marie (annemariewistad) | 47 comments Mod
Yes! That's exactly what I thought about the superstitions too, that if you honestly thought it was helping (especially if you are the person needing the help!)that it really might! A lot of times things with the body are mind over matter, so it WOULD make a difference. I really enjoyed her character as well. She was mysterious but also SO giving and willing to help whenever she was needed. It was never about money or herself. I liked her spunk too. She wasn't afraid to tell that Doctor what was what!


Annie | 52 comments Mod
I think when some one is confident and seems sure of themselves, especially when you're freaking out (as in childbirth!) it makes that person seem like God Himself has come to help you out! Reassurance goes a long way and I think in a small community like that it created quite a family-like following of loyal Mrs. B supporters!
I loved the little deal towards the end where she blew cyan pepper in that one chicks face to make her have a sneeze attack to get the strength to push the baby out! VERY clever and a fitting representation of a unique home-birth story!
It ties in to your question, Anne, about just how real some of Mrs. B's superstitions and potions might have been and I bet there was a lot of primitive medicinal elements genuinely going on, but I think a lot of it was "placebo" in the sense that if YOU believed it and it worked, then it was real! Thus a lot of witch-hunts in the past that seemed to land midwives and backyard doctors to the stake/pit/fire - it was just real enough to be feared. I believe that there are legitimate things you can do from things in nature that are very potent - such as this certain root in a tea they gave a friend of mine when she had her baby at home and she wouldn't stop bleeding. The root-tea made her uterus contract and it worked!
Something I learned that was disturbing was the number of times women would get pregnant and would "get rid of it" due to circumstances in their lives at the time. I read up on it and many women believed that as long as you "did away with it" before you felt the baby quicken, or move, that it was not technically a baby and just "baby matter" or something I guess and was not technically wrong. A sad misconception if you ask me. Especially when you consider the risks you took with your own life when you tried to do away with a late term pregnancy. Anyway, I've rambled on enough for one person! Keep discussing ;)


Charmaine (wistad) I was very surprised to read about the Halifax explosion on Dec.6, 1917. I had never heard of this event so I googled it. Two ships collided (by accident) in the harbor. One was a French cargo ship - which was fully loaded with wartime explosives. Almost 2000 people were killed and 9000 were injured. It remains to this day the world's largest accidental explosion. In the novel, Dora has to help deliver both dead and live babies. I thought the author did a good job making the scenes seem real (awfully real).


Annie | 52 comments Mod
I agree with the reality of the moment the author captured and I also had never heard of this event! You never know what you're going to get out of a book - fiction or non! One of the many reasons I love to read as much as I can :)


message 12: by Charmaine (last edited Dec 12, 2011 09:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Charmaine (wistad) I FINALLY finished this book last night. I have to rant a little bit about Mr. Ketch. Good heavens! My gut literally turned as I read about his heinous behavior toward the women & children in his life. But, as in all situations, something good did come out of it: Dora got Wrennie to love and raise as her own.
I was surprised (in a good way) at some of the twists and turns in this novel i.e the Halifax explosion, the death of Archer, Dora's time in Boston, Dora choosing not to marry Hart. I also learned a lot about a woman's choices regarding pregnancy/birthing/abortion at the turn of the 20th century. All in all, I really enjoyed it.

I'll throw out one last quote from the end of the book to see what your reaction was to this: "That Missy Austen always seemed to be endin' her books with a weddin'.....Seems to me what she's sayin' is that once you're hitched, it might as well be the end." (quoting Miss B.)


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