It might be tempting to romanticise the East London of Jennifer Worth's Call the Midwife, and the book is stuffed full of moving and heroic characters and episodes in this historical documentary of working-class life after the Second World War. But life for women and their children in the disease-ridden, freezing-cold, unhygienic London slums was unbearably ugly and wrong.
Worth is a natural story-teller, with a telling eye for detail and personalities. The deprivation and squalor are not glossed over, nor are the private tragedies of a society in which medicine and education were only for the rich and privileged whilst death or the Poorhouse were the lot of manual workers and their families.
With no family planning available, huge families were the norm, putting even greater strain on the resources of the poor. Worth's record of her work as a midwife will shock and surprise - and move. With Stephanie Cole's perfect pace and timbre, this is an audiobook that will long haunt the listener and make us reflect on how things have changed over the last sixty years, but how much more might still need to be done to prevent the cruelties of social inequality.
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© 2008 AudioBooksReview
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