The Midwife of Venice is set in Venice (duh) during the 1500s. The main character, Hannah, is a young Jewish midwife who has invented a really early version of forceps which she calls “birthing spoons”. It’s such an interesting look into that time period. The setting is beautifully described by the author, Roberta Rich, you feel like you’re there with her. The plot revolves around the conflicts between the Christian and Jewish faith at the time. A Jewish woman was forbidden to help a Christian woman in birth. But Hannah’s reputation is such that the Christian nobility seek her out. What follows is a story of true love, trust, friendship, and above all, fighting for what you feel is right.
Apparently, I have a bit of a theme going lately with the two books about midwifery in a row. I’m really enjoying learning about how women actually made it through birth back then. One crazy tidbit I learned about in this book was called “crocheting” a baby. As I understood it, if the baby was fatally stuck in the birth canal, and the momma was going fast, they would send a hook up there and hook to baby out by the skull then use a silk cord to literally pull the baby apart limb from limb out of the womb. Obviously, this was a very last chance device that was used. And of course, it would have been a horrific experience for all involved. Birth is no joke. I can’t imagine…
Anyways… on a happier note. I would totally recommend this book if you’re into history, Italy, women’s issues enthusiasts, or just general LOVE CONQUERS ALL kind of stories.