Jennifer Worth (nee Lee) left her relatively privileged life to work as a midwife in the East End of London during the 1950s. Although she had worked as a nurse, she was unprepared for the challenges she would face, including extreme poverty of patients, long work hours and living with nuns.
Although initially out of her depth, she soon adapted to life in the East End. While there she learned much about the life of the people, both uplifting and depressing; From a woman with 25 children and the survival of a premature baby to people losing their homes and the horrors of prostitution.
Throughout the book Worth comes across many endearing characters, including Sister Monica Joan, a woman whose dementia leads her to say many amusing things, and ‘Chummy’ who, through her upper-class upbringing can ride a horse but not a bike.
Worth’s book is beautifully written. Humorous, intriguing and engaging, it was good to the last page. Her comprehensive knowledge of midwifery practice and history is evident in the book and is integrated in a way that informs the reader without becoming jargony or incomprehensible to the lay person. The book also features a glossary of terms and notes on the cockney dialect to further aid the reader.
Funny, uplifting and occasionally heartbreaking, Call the Midwife is a truly great and unique book and a great start to the hundred.