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:
Other books about food.
First person. (isn't that a strange one?)
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.