Tuesday, May 31

Book Review: Midwife of Venice

Title: The Midwife of Venice

Author: Roberta Rich

Pages: 321

Summary: Hannah ha-Levi, a midwife in the Jewish ghetto, is known throughout Venice for her skill in midwifery. When a Christian count appears at Hannah's door imploring her to attend his labouring wife who is near death, Hannah's compassion is tested. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it's also punishable by torture ... and death. But Hannah cannot turn down the money. With such a handsome sum, she can save her own husband, Isaac, who was captured at sea and taken to Malta as a slave of the Knights of St. John. Aided by her "birthing spoons" — rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births — will Hannah be able to save mother and child? And if she can, will she also be able to save herself?
Woven through Hannah's travails is the story of Isaac's life as a captive slave in Malta. Fearing that his wife has perished in the plague, he pins his hopes of returning home to Hannah on his talent for writing love letters that melt even the hardest of hearts.

My Rating: 5.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Although I was impressed and really enjoyed the historical background and era of this book, I have to say, it didn't really work for me.
I have to agree with other reviews out there, the characterization was forced - Hannah was almost Mary-Sue like. Everything went her way, it all wrapped up for her perfectly - two perfectly. The conflict of the book would have been interesting, but it didn't seem to be believable for me, because everything always turned into her favour. It ended up being a vicious circle, conflict arises, things turn into her favour, with little middle ground to solve the issue. I wasn't looking for anything horrible to happen, but for her to fail, or loose at something would have made for a better and believable story. The storyline itself, was fine, but forced a bit, because the main characters were forced, events just didn't seem to work for me. It was okay, but not great - at times it was hard to focus on it.

The historical fiction side was done. I enjoyed the peek at the era - the contrast between life for the Christian and the Jewish religions was well done. The author went to careful detail at bring the everyday life, and details for a good historical fiction - she did a great job at bringing the 16th Century Venice to life.

It made it for a strong historical fiction, but I think the characterization ruined parts of the plot for me. Not bad, but not my favourite.

Would I recommend it to read: I'd say it would be a good book for a historical fiction fan, but it wouldn't be high on my recommend reading list.

What to read next: Jewel of St. Petersburg, Mistress of Rome

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge


  1. I have a strange fascination with midwives and think that I would probably really enjoy this book. I don't think I would be too bothered by the fact that everything always seems to go right for the protagonist, and after having read your review, I think I might be able to overlook this flaw. Thanks for the honest and insightful review, Jules. It was much appreciated!

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  3. Zibilee - As of late, I seem to be reading a few books, or have a few more on my tbr list, that will be read by the end of the year that have a midwife as a character or about midwifery. If you like that genre, it may be a good choice for you. It does go into detail about the midwifery of the time period. Interesting in that regard.