My thoughts: I'm oddly fascinated by the history of medicine. I suppose I'm fascinated by medicine today as well, particularly the tension between tradition and change. I tend to favor all natural, homeopathic methods, but I also recognize the limitations of those methods. I want to believe the earth offers us the tools to heal all of the ailments it creates, but ultimately I think modern inventions and natural traditions are both worthy. All of this excursis is to say: midwifery in the 1600's is bizarre, awesome and utterly fascinating. I was immediately struck by how midwifes must treat unmarried pregnant women:
"If she doesn't name the father, the city will have to support the child for years to come," I explained as gently as I could. "The law forbids me to help her so long as she refuses."Much of this novel's success hinges on Lady Bridget. Thomas has created a strong, independent female character who is not an anachronism to her time. She has been widowed twice and lost both of her children to death. She is wealthy, yet she works as a midwife and believes in her work. She's feisty, yet traditional. She shows signs of bending class divisions, but ultimately she upholds them. She acknowledges some examples of sexism, but she's unaware of many others. Lady Bridget is our window into both the politically tumultuous time and the murder mystery. She carries both off, and perhaps most surprisingly, I completely bought her as a sleuth. As a midwife, Bridget has unique access to so many in York. For a crime like this one, sexism prevented justice, thus Bridget is the logical option to pick up the pieces after the investigators jumped to what they saw as the only logical conclusion.
Favorite passage: "Bacca was right: Papists have their priests for confession--we Protestants are not so fortunate. We must confess to each other, or live and die with the burden of our sins."
The verdict: The Midwife's Tale is both a fascinating work of a historical fiction and a compelling mystery. The political warfare of York in 1644 provides the perfect backdrop for the events in this novel. Lady Bridget is a dynamic character, and I look forward to her next adventures (a sequel is in the works.)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: January 8, 2013
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Midwife's Tale from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)
Want more? Check out Sam Thomas's website. It includes information on the history of midwifery and the real-life Bridget Hodgson, including her bizarrely fascinating will.
As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!