This really is the farewell to London's East End and the start of the East London we know today. Anyone growing up or moving to twenty-first century East London would be shocked and horrified by what was accepted as the norm only sixty years before: illiteracy, poverty and sickness; crowded, barely lit and insanitary housing, with child and maternal mortality of present-day third-world proportions.
Jennifer Worth's recollections of her time working as a midwife with the Nonnatus House nuns is an outstanding series for Orion Audiobooks, beautifully read by the splendid Anne Reid - evocative, haunting, gladdening and reassuring. Full of humour and anecdote, these tales of true working-class characters are at the same time entertaining and thought-provoking - the back-street abortionists with their ineffective concoction for 'digestive problems'; the identical twins who share a husband; the enormous ship's woman who provides sexual services for the crew - including the captain, her father, whose baby she is delivered of in the close confines of her ship's cabin. With the ongoing histories of the nuns and of her fellow night sisters, Farewell to the East End is a fitting and moving end to the author's work in the rapidly transforming landscape and amongst the fast-changing lives of those whose domain is this part of the capital.
I hope we will hear of Jennifer Worth's life as a musician and music teacher - the career she took up on leaving midwifery. It is guaranteed to work its charms.
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