Published: 6th March 2008
Score: 4 out of 5
Synopsis taken from Amazon:
Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction.
Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns (including one who was accused of stealing jewels from Hatton Garden) and the camaraderie of the midwives with whom she trained. Funny, disturbing and incredibly moving, Jennifer’s stories bring to life the colourful world of the East End in the 1950s.
I really enjoyed this book. Being an avid fan of the BBC Series here in the UK I could not wait to read the memoirs. What a fantastic insight this was!
Told through the eyes of Jenny, a young midwife working in East End London in the 1950’s, this book follows her career and the characters she meets on her way. I absolutely loved the sheer variety of characters she met, each one felt completely different to the last. Some of the events in the novel were truly appalling, the conditions and circumstances old and young alike found themselves in were harrowing. The stories of Mary and Mrs Jenkins tore my heart in two.
All the way through we are given much detail, description and imagery – some is not for the faint hearted believe me! All events are told with absolute truth and honesty, giving a sense of the time. I felt like I learnt such a lot through reading this novel – about grief and loss, true love and compassion, dedication, commitment, choices and community strength. I have learnt so much about midwifery and the NHS in the 1950’s – oh, how lucky we are!
“Their devotion showed me there were no versions of love there was only… Love. That it had no equal and that it was worth searching for, even if that search took a lifetime.”
The conditions and surroundings that these communities lived in really struck a cord with me. Some people lived in absolute squalor, with next to nothing yet their strength and resililiance was commendable. It really conveyed the true meaning of community, how people relied on each other.
The characters in this book are rich, wonderful and diverse. The nuns are sensitive, respected and endearing. The nurses full of vitality and life. If you are a fan of the TV series then this book will not disappoint. The BBC adaptation is wonderful, the characters are so true to life. It is an accurate reflection of Jennifer Worth’s memoirs and tales, brought to life on screen.
‘A fascinating read. A story of community and resilience combined with facts and tales of midwifery in the 1950’s. An interesting read for those interested in the history of the NHS, midwifery as a career or just the sheer curiosity of what life was really like in London in the fifties. If you love the TV series, read this now!’