Who Ya Gonna Call?

Alert the media; I finished another book! That’s TWO so far this summer vacation. This one is a special one in particular, because it was not only amazing but also has an amazing television adaptation. I finished it this afternoon at the Starbucks on W. Washington Avenue, so here’s my take on Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth.

Call the Midwife is the memoir of the late Jennifer Worth, who was a midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. In the book, she calls herself “Jenny Lee” (her maiden name), and her journey begins when she steps into Nonnatus House. From the moment she meets batty Sister Monica Joan, she knows she’s in for a trip. We meet the rest of the nuns and midwives at Nonnatus House: sweet Sister Julienne, tough-as-nails Sister Evangelina, nurses Trixie and Cynthia, and of course, clumsy second banana Chummy Browne.

The situations that Jenny encounters range from inspiring to terrifying, and sometimes encompass both. Jenny doesn’t always handle things with the utmost grace; she doesn’t paint herself as a saint, which is refreshing to read, and she makes mistakes along the way, learning from them. I admit to having been spoiled a little by the excellent BBC TV series of the same name; the few episodes I have watched have magically recreated some of the scenarios from the book, but reading them is a different kind of magic. For example, the Conchita Warren storyline – the second part, specifically – was acted out wonderfully, but the language that Worth uses to break down just how powerful the maternal instinct of the human woman is makes you really ponder the miracle of birth. Really, the whole book does; as much as it is an insight into life in the poor side of London in the 1950s, it brings the experience of birth to a whole new level.

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6 thoughts on “Who Ya Gonna Call?

  1. A great review. I haven’t read the books, but have seen all the series. Although the series was superb, I don’t doubt that the book will delve deeper into some of the incidents. I really like your description of the Conchita Warren storyline. The 1950s in Britain were very harsh for so many people and even the series does an exceptional job of portraying the poverty of
    dockside London.

    • Millie: The books are different from the series – particularly Sister Evangelina – but the essence is the same. I was spellbound by the series: the bleak gray London fog, pierced by the blue and white of the midwives’ uniforms; the policemen in black; the stifling houses with the tiniest bits of pink sunlight filtering through the windows onto the woman in the bed. I was wondering how the series was perceived in Britain; good to know it’s popular and considerably accurate.

      • The series was an enormous hit over here with people of all generations. The post-war period is always popular, and not just with the older generation. I loved it because I still remember the 1950s and early 6os. I was only a child then, but I remeber dockland Liverpool looking just like the ares of London shown in the series. There were so many heaps of rubble from the bombing,and rebuilding was a while in getting going. Anyway, I think I should read the book at some stage. It’s interesting what you say about Sister Evangelina being very different. As for period dramas, the BBC have got them off to a fine art – which suits me because I’m hooked on them. Thanks for replying to me, Jacob.

  2. I have been wanting to read these books for ages! I, too, love the TV show (though I unfortunately stopped watching it a while back…because, well, life and stuff). Thanks for your review, Jacob. I’ll definitely be putting this on my to read list now.

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