Monday, September 9, 2013

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

I had read this book a few years ago, but picked it up again because it's on my book club reading list.  Though I remembered some of the story, it was interesting enough to keep my attention a second time around.  This is the first novel by a former lawyer and she writes very well.  She tells the story of Hannah, a midwife in sixteenth century Venice who gets herself into trouble when she is beckoned to save the life of a non-Jewish noble woman who is suffering from a difficult labour.  She manages to bring the child into the world safely, but this puts her in danger of the jealous brothers of the baby's father who stand to lose a significant portion of their inheritance with the arrival of a new male heir.  We see the former "ghetto mouse" fight off the brothers, the plague and other dangers - sometimes with the assistance of her sister, a courtesan who has converted to Christianity.

At the same time we are told the parallel story of Hannah's husband Isaac who was captured at sea and sold into slavery in Malta.  He survives by his wits alone - and Hannah delivers the baby to earn the money for his ransom.

Some of the encounters are rather fantastical, as is the happy ending, but this is still a well written, entertaining story.

No comments:

Post a Comment