Saturday, April 28, 2012

Charlene Reviews: The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

ISBN #: 978-1451657470
Page Count: 352
Copyright: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Gallery Books

(Taken from back cover)

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers - a gift aided by the secret "birthing spoons" she designed. But when a count implores her to attend to his wife, who has been laboring for days to give birth to their firstborn son, Hannah is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but the payment he offers is enough to ransom her beloved husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can Hannah refuse her duty to a suffering woman? Hannah's choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the baby and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life. Not since The Red Tent or People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history.

Charlene's Review:

Hannah Levi has been a midwife for many babies, but none as controversial as the Contessa's. The only thing pulling her towards attending the birth of the Christian baby, against Jewish laws, is the money promised that could pay for her enslaved husband to be returned to her. Using her secret "birthing spoons," crude forceps she designed to aid the birth of the baby, Hannah saves the infant and the mother. Unfortunately, the birthing spoons are found, and claiming Hannah is a witch, the Contessa's brother demands the money she earned, or he will turn her over to authorities. As she attempts to save her own life, and reclaim her husband, the events quickly escalate into murder, familial loss, and eventually, a new beginning.

Set in Venice, 1575, inside the Jewish ghetto, The Midwife of Venice transports the reader to a poor, dirty city. In a time when it was not easy to be Jewish, or a woman, Hannah must find the strength to take care of herself. Ms. Rich articulates fiercely the struggle of women of this era. The hysteria and fear of the times, especially concerning the Plague, are palpable. The imagery is simply spellbinding. This is a story of suspense and love, intermingled with a historical content. I enjoyed reading this novel, and would look forward to a sequel, just to see how things turn out for all the characters, especially the baby. I would definitely love to see more from this author.

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