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Call The Midwife Was a Book First


My husband and I are expecting our first baby. It’s an exciting, wonderful, strange and occasionally terrifying time, as anyone who has been through it will remember. Both medically and emotionally, it’s an absolutely fascinating process that is affecting parts of my body and both of our hearts that neither of us ever expected.

To alterately comfort and alarm myself, I’ve become totally immersed in the PBS Series Call The Midwife. Originally a BBC drama (and apparently, the highest-rated in BBC history), the show is utterly engrossing and fantastic.

If you’ve never seen it, the series is set in tjhe 1950s, in the poor East End of London. It centers on a convent known as Nonnatus House, which is home to nuns, nurses and midwives. The main character and protagonist is young Nurse Jenny Lee, who arrives at Nonnatus at the beginning of the series, and is initially quite squeamish and a bit prissy. But that soon changes. The series follows Nurse Lee and her fellow young nurses, as well as the sisters of Nonnatus led by chief nun Sister Julienne, as they host midwifery clinics, attend births, tend to the sick working class people of the area, and generally do the best they can with limited resources, often in squalid or surprising conditions.

The births depicted are incredibly realistic and well done, the characters and settings are fully realized and believable, and the show works extraordinarily well on the whole. My only complaint is that the first two seasons were only six and eight episodes respectively, and I went through them very quickly. Which is why I am so excited to learn that it was a book first! Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth was originally published in 2002, after Worth retired. I was even more excited to learn that the book is a memoir, and based on her own, real-life experiences working in the same scenarios and conditions described. And the happy news and things to look forward to continue – it’s a trilogy! Books two and three are called Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End.

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