Review of The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

Midwife of Venice

Midwife of Venice

I think I found a new area of historical fiction that I am starting to like the more I read about it. Anything to do with Italy in the 16th century. Anything to do with Italy back then is something I have to look through and read. It’s an amazing era. How did I ever miss out on it?

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. (From Goodreads)

I absolutely loved reading this book. It was so beautifully written, the plot was interesting, and the characters were all memorable. Things just seemed to happen one even after another that the book ended up being a page turner and I would definitely recommend this book for those that are going through a ‘reading rut’ at the moment. This is the perfect book to get back on track on your ‘reading roll’.

The descriptions of the city of Venice were wonderful. There were really great contrasts between the setting where Hannah lives (the Jewish area) and the Christian area. It’s not to say that Hannah lives in deep poverty she seems to be living comfortable with just the basic needs. However when compared to the places she goes to outside of the Ghetto area, it’s a vast difference and shows how different these two groups of people live. The persecution and hatred that Hannah and her people have to go through on a daily basis is hard to read, and does make you upset while reading them. However, it is historically accurate, and it’s interesting to note the mentioning of the blood libel, and how crimes committed against Jews were hugely ignored (however if it was vice versa, there would have been an uproar). So throughout the novel, everywhere she turns, Hannah is faced with her ‘Jewishness’. It’s what sets her apart from the rest and it’s painfully obvious; however she deals with it accordingly and puts it all aside, especially while she does her duties as a midwife.

I really did enjoy reading about Hannah a lot. She’s such a strong woman and very determined. She even puts aside her beliefs to doing what she feels is the right thing. She was such a strong character and I really enjoyed reading how despite all the odds against her, and the threats she had to face, she managed to survive and to keep a clear head throughout the novel. Not to mention, she had to make out a living on her own while her husband was taken into slavery, and she manages to survive despite all these overwhelming odds against her. I really did admire her, and I really liked reading about her throughout the book.

Isaac’s story line was good, although I wish there was a little more to it. Then again if there was, then it wouldn’t be really called ‘The Midwife of Venice’ would it? Anyway, it was good enough to read, and an interesting story line for a supporting character. Towards the end of the book, I thought it was just a little too rushed at the end, and everything was done just a little too convenient. However, everything did seem to fall into place and I’m wondering if there is going to be a sequel to this. If there is, count me in because I’ll definitely be picking it up!

This was a beautifully written, wonderful book to read. I most definitely recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers. Roberta Rich is one of to keep an eye on if she continues to write as superb as this book. I absolutely loved this one.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.


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