Monday, July 1, 2013

THE MIDWIFE'S TALE by Sam Thomas ★★★★

In the early 1600s, a woman’s role was easily categorised as that of being a wife and mother. Nothing more, nothing less.  Except in the case of twice widowed Lady Bridget Hodgson, who serves her community in the role of midwife, tending to ladies and maids and everyone in between.
York in 1644 is not a pleasant place, even for an educated and wealthy woman such as Bridget. A civil war is splitting the country in two, and Parliament’s forces are at the city’s walls.  In the midst of this uncertainty, one of Bridget’s friends is accused of murdering her husband, an act of petty treason. Esther Cooper begs Bridget to help prove her innocence and save her life.
Appalled at the way Esther’s trial is handled and at the attitude of the Lord Mayor, Bridget finds herself drawn towards proving Esther’s innocence, and her life, ably assisted by her new maid, Martha Hawkins. For a lady’s maid, Martha has an unusual skill set and understanding of the seedier side of life which comes in surprisingly useful in a city under siege, where unsavoury characters lurk around corners and danger comes in all shapes and sizes.
Samuel Thomas has captured his female protagonist with a realistic hand, keeping her wit and wisdom fresh and believable. His enthusiasm for Reformation history keeps the story flowing without becoming bogged down in dreary details. Samuel based his character Bridget on a midwife by the same name who practiced in York and whose Will can found online at the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research website.
However the most unique aspect of this book is its historical accuracy as far as midwifery. We are taken on a journey into a world that exists no longer, but was an integral and essential part of life in the 1600s. As a midwife, Bridget is not only responsible for bringing new life into her world, but for interrogating single mothers and ensuring the fathers’ of their children take responsibility for their actions.
A mystery with a unique setting, The Midwife’s Tale is certainly a novel worth exploring, if you like facts along with your fiction.


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