Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Midwife

I've been a moody reader lately. It all started with something I read in Adam Roberts' The Amateur Gourmet. Roberts' had lunch with Ruth Reichl, and he worried out loud about what he 'should' wear, and what he 'should' order. Reichl set him straight. She told him (and I'm paraphrasing here) that it's his meal, his experience. He should wear what he wants and what he's comfortable in, and he should order what he wants to eat. Not what the restaurant's necessarily known for, not what will impress your date or Ruth Reichl, but what you want.

That got me thinking about what I want to read. Not necessarily what books people want me to review, or what the readers of this blog might be most interested in, or what looks impressive out in public. What I Want. And What I Want to read lately is this:

Food Memoirs.
Other books about food.
First person. (isn't that a strange one?)
Historical Fiction.
Women's stories.
Strong women.
Hard times.

That is what I've been in the mood for. Not mysteries, or books set in Asia. So, I guess what I'm saying is that these are the sorts of books I'll be reviewing here in the coming week or two. Because that's what I want to read. And you know what? I'm sure that will change.

Lesley wrote about The Midwife last month and as sometimes happens to me, I knew I needed to have that book right away. So I literally went and bought it the next day. And then it sat on the big stack and said 'read me. read me!' for a while, and then finally, because I am reading What I Want, I picked it up and I can tell you, it was perfect.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times is Jennifer Worth's memoir of her experience as a midwife in the East End of London in the 1950's. Times were different then when most women gave birth at home, and midwives were most involved in their pre and post natal care. Boy, does Worth have some amazing stories! Worth lived in London with a group of Nuns who were experienced midwives themselves - this provided some interesting stories without even delivering babies! Worth's patients were working class people, living in differing levels of poverty, some better off than others, and to think people still lived in homes with communal bathrooms and water that must be carried upstairs in the 1950s is really something.

The Midwife contains the stories of the woman who has given birth to 25 babies, the differing response to babies whose skin color does not match their parents, young mother's who seems unsuited to the job, and prostitutes who fell on hard times. The stories are sometimes difficult and heart-breaking, but are also life-affirming. Worth writes with just the right amount of compassion and mater-of-factness. Worth is at her best when she writes about the women whose lives she entered, though there are more personal essays as well.

If you're interesting in the subject, I couldn't recommend this more. I will tell you that it's quite graphic in terms of childbirth - all aspects of it. The good news is that Worth has written 2 follow up books to this; as yet unpublished in the US, so I'm thanking my lucky stars for The Book Depository.


bermudaonion said...

I do love a good memoir, but I'm not sure I want to read graphic childbirth stories.

Ti said...

I know what you mean about wanting to read what YOU want, etc. It's hard to balance my list with the lists that also dominate my life (ARCs, Book Club, etc).

Carrie K said...

Exactly! And why is it so hard for us to read what we want, eat what we want, etc? As if it matters to anyone else. And if it does - isn't that a warning sign?

Staci said...

Loved the way you stated this!! Very true!! I won this book from Lesley!! I loved her review and now with yours I'm going to have to move this one up some notches!!!

Anonymous said...

This sounds fantastic - I hadn't heard of it before, but I love memoirs, and I absolutely love books set in London after the War. I will definitely be picking this one up. :)

Unknown said...

I can agree with you totally. I really enjoyed reading this and posting it right before mother's day. I am a nurse so I could relate with the book. But the hard part was how hard nursing was back in the day. How they treated women. I did enjoy reading this very much. On another note I feel the same way. I want to read something I want to read not the ARCs. I was going to do that but then remembered I have a book club book and a blog tour. Tis the life of a blogger.

Jenny said...

Hooray for you! I have never joined a book club for this very reason -- I like to read exactly what I feel like, without any (even perceived) obligations. And honestly, people think all kinds of things are interesting. I am fascinated by everything you listed, just for instance -- personally love hard-times memoirs. You go!

Cath said...

I know what you mean about reading what you want to. The first half of this year has been governed by challenges for me and while I still have a couple going I'm determined that the 2nd half should be much more me reading on a whim. A bit of what you fancy does you good so I hope you enjoy finding the books to suit your mood.

Les said...

I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed this book!! You'll have to let me know what you think of her follow-up books once you get to them.

I know what you mean about reading what you want to read. I've been trying to read some of the books I've had stashed around the house for years, ignoring the new ones that have made their way in via work and friends. I won't complain about my book club, though, as I've read some great books that I might not have otherwise picked up (In Defense of Food; Year of Wonders; The Hunger Games; In the Woods).

Happy reading!

Tara said...

bermudaonion, yes, I don't think this would be for everyone. I like icky medical things!

Ti, It's a hard balance, isn't it?

Carrie K, it is a warning sign, this is a hobby and I need to please myself!

Staci, thank you! Lucky you, winning The Midwife! I hope you enjoy it.

jennysbooks, oh, you will definitely like this then. I love the same sorts of books and have few more good ones to read.

Seaside Book Worm, I am going to come check out your review. It was really something reading about nursing and medical care back then - so different it is now!

Jenny, I enjoy being in my bookclub - but not when I don't like the book! It sounds like we have similar taste!

Cath, I find it hard to stick to a list - which is why I avoid challenges! I am having great luck finding books that suit my mood.

Les, oh I did Les, thank you so much for reviewing it! Wow, it sounds like your book club has a great reading list! We aren't having as good of luck this year.

Danielle said...

You should definitely always read what You want to!! This sounds great, though I wonder if I would be sqeamish with the detail of birth (not having any children myself). Still, it sounds fascinating, to I am adding it to my list!

Iliana said...

I can so relate to the moody reader thing. I keep saying that this summer it's going to be more about what I want to read than what I should read.

Anyway, The Midwife sounds interesting. Not my typical read but I'll keep it on my radar.

Tara said...

Danielle, I can totally see being squeamish with this book! Still, I think you would like the subject matter.

Iliana, good for you! Reading what I want makes it seem as though I am reading at the speed of light!

Melissa said...

Like you, this was one of those books I had to have, but now it's been sitting on my shelves waiting for a while. I really need need to take time to read it as I keep hearing great things about it.

Tara said...

Melissa, it's a quick one! Just do it! ;-)

Samantha said...

Done! I've added this to my bookdepository wishlist.

Tara said...

Samantha, I think you will *love* this!