Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Midwife of Vienna: Book Review

Midwife of Venice
By Roberta Rich
A review copy was sent to me.

The Midwife of Venice, is not my typically read. But, because it is the story of a midwife, and was Jewish themed, I thought I would give it a try. In advance I will tell you the author is not Jewish. She wrote the novel because of her trip to the Jewish ghetto in Venice.

Hanna Levi, is a reputable midwife held in high regard in the Jewish ghetto, in Venice. She is asked, by the Count to come immediately to assist his wife in the birth. The Contess has been in such pain, and misery since she has gone into labor. He is desperate to ask Hannah for her help.

She is advised by the Rabbi, it is very dangerous. If you do this you put yourself as well as the ghetto in danger. It is against the law for a Jew to practice medicine to a Christian. But the count offers her a sum of money that will help her free her husband, in Malta. Her husband was captured in Malta, and held there. Hannah can't resist the money to quicken the release of her husband.

The child birth is hard, but Hannah is able to guide the baby into the world with the "birthing spoons", she has invented. The child is born healthy, as well as the mother. They are grateful for Hannah saving the child and the Countess.

After the child birth and everything is well the Count, and Contess leave for a few days and leave the child with the wet nurse. But, Hannah sees something sinister between the count's brothers. The child will inherit everything if the child lives.

One of the count's brother's kidnap the child, and take him to the Jewish ghetto where Hannah is following him. The brother has a plan to murder the child, and accuse the Jews of the Jewish ghetto of killing the child, for the blood of their passover.

The story is fast paced, and suspenseful and every page you turn something happens worse, and worse for Hannah. But truthfully, I did not like it. I do love a fast paced novel, but the book did not do anything for me. For me, I don't see how this is a international book sensation.

I liked the history of Venice, and the conditions the author paints of Venice.   As a nurse, I liked the scene of the birth of Matteo, a bit graphic and may be too much for some squismish people. A link to the brief history of the invention of forceps for a delivery here.
What made the story suspenseful was the back and forth of the characters with alternating chapter of the narrative between Hannah in Venice and Issac in Malta. But that is where I draw the line.


I did not care for any of the character. Especially Hannah. Please give me a break, the story was so contrived, and fake I could not take it. From the child, Matteo being kidnapped, and her sister, that converted to Christianity, killed.

Hannah didn't even seem to blink when her sister was killed. She was set back 5 minutes then ran. C'mon, I know she was in danger, but it did not seem real. Then she tries to give her baby back, but finds out luckily the Count and Countess died, and the house doesn't want Matteo because she thinks he has contracted the plague. So conviently Matteo become's Hannah's child.

  I felt like the author was trying too hard to capture her audience.  At every turn it reminded me of one of the Indiana Jones movies where one thing led to another. The entire book felt contrived down to the Jewish traditions and rituals.

I will say if you are looking for a light read, beach read this I think fits the bill.


Irene said...

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this book. When I started to read your review I thought it might be a good read. I enjoy historical fiction.

Sally said...

I am really surprised by this negative review. I thought the book was extremely well researched and as I know a bit about history, pretty accurate. I also found the book very hard to put down, and I loved the strong Jewish female characters. A terrific historcal novel.

Anonymous said...

I just loved the historical details and the great adventures. I've spent time in Malta and Venice (not Vienna!) and found the setting very true.
Carol G

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