The Midwife of Venice Info

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Reviews for The Midwife of Venice:

3

Jan 24, 2012

Welcome to another edition of Megan's Damning With Faint Praise!

This book is fine. It is readable, it didn't piss me off, I enjoyed it while I was reading it. These are things I almost always say about books I liked but inspired me to no passion, one way or another. And it's true in this case as well.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire Welcome to another edition of Megan's Damning With Faint Praise!

This book is fine. It is readable, it didn't piss me off, I enjoyed it while I was reading it. These are things I almost always say about books I liked but inspired me to no passion, one way or another. And it's true in this case as well.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook ...more
2

Aug 25, 2012

With The Midwife of Venice, Roberta Rich has joined the hordes. By "hordes," I mean authors producing historical fiction about parts of the world that are legendary, which is to say mostly imaginary to them. Strangely, most are about 16th-century Italy, one region or another. Also, they tend to feature resourceful female protagonists whose pluck and daring gets them through the most unlikely adventures. There is usually some form of prejudice; a helper in the form of another social outsider (a With The Midwife of Venice, Roberta Rich has joined the hordes. By "hordes," I mean authors producing historical fiction about parts of the world that are legendary, which is to say mostly imaginary to them. Strangely, most are about 16th-century Italy, one region or another. Also, they tend to feature resourceful female protagonists whose pluck and daring gets them through the most unlikely adventures. There is usually some form of prejudice; a helper in the form of another social outsider (a randy dwarf, a cloistered monk); and a great deal of travel (to Scotland, Morocco, Rome). That "legendariness" is not entirely a bad thing; it allows readers to *think* they are being transported through a place while still suspending disbelief as wholly improbable events take place there. When an author also so obviously wants his/her fiction to be taken seriously as a political statement or quasi-historical document, however, the lack of research or actual realism becomes a distraction rather than a boon.

And that is just one problem with Rich's novel. Rich has imagined a "Venice" in which the Jewish midwife Hannah, so downtrodden and impoverished by racial prejudice that she fears for her life if she steps outside the Ghetto or helps to birth a Gentile woman's baby (a task she – compassionately and rebelliously – nonetheless undertakes with surprising regularity), mysteriously becomes the target of a rich family's rage and vengeance. So much so that she has to disguise herself as a prostitute, guided by her "lapsed" sister, and then as a victim of the Black Death. Oh, and she also steals the rich family's baby, and manages to get stuck with him, so she and her (downtrodden and impoverished) husband Isaac can finally have the child they have dreamed of. Oh, and she escapes Venice on board a freight ship bound for Malta, where her husband has managed to win favor with nuns, a local eccentric artist woman, and a reluctantly admiring slave-owner who happens to be in love with the eccentric artist woman. Oh, and somewhere in there Hannah sneaks out of Venice and has a totally unnecessary subplot-adventure involving a suspicious ship's captain and a kind Muslim woman. Oh, and Hannah also rescues her husband from the clutches of the greedy nun and then the greedy slave-owner, and they bring the baby up and live happily ever after.

If you're reading this with eyes narrowed and the shadow of a "WTF" dancing across your peripheral vision, you're not alone. The novel is a full-tilt disappointment whose rave reviews on Amazon leave me baffled. It is full of racial depictions in all directions that turn characters into black-and-white cardboard cutouts worthy of a 19th-century melodrama (The Good Jewess, The Greedy Rabbi, the Scheming Count and so on), historical and geographical inaccuracies (I'm sorry, but if you are going to write a historical novel about downtrodden but plucky Jews in 16th-century Venice you need to know how to spell "G-I-U-D-E-C-C-A," not to mention the fact that the Jews did not, in fact, live in this area but in the Ghetto, which was in the Cannaregio), and wild radical leaps of logic that stymy even the most faithful of suspended disbelievers. How did Hannah, who cannot afford an orange, manage to get the silversmith from the Ghetto to manufacture her birthing tool, a set of soldered silver spoons (ostensibly the first forceps)? Why would the Rabbi, suspicious of anyone's authority beyond his own, even allow a pair of Gentile gentlemen into the Ghetto after hours, much less up into Hannah's private rooms – and then permit her to leave with them at midnight? Why would an independently wealthy (and oddly sexually liberated) artist fall in love with the emaciated but well-spoken Isaac? And, sigh, why do the non-Jews all have to be such caricatures of despicability and greed? This kind of representation may make for a cathartic page-turner, but it makes the novel feel mis-classified, as if it should be sold in the YA section. And that's *bad* YA, the kind that refuses to recognize the complexities of a world whose strands of black and white weave into a highly nuanced fabric of grey.

As for the page-turner thing? I reached page 241 in my copy and discovered that the next available page was 318. Perhaps the best assessment I can give of this book is to say that my reaction was one of relief and renewed enthusiasm : the end was near, and that was promising. What a shame to waste such an original idea for a novel – and such good intentions, too, to draw attention to the realities of women's daily lives in historically oppressed communities – on such claptrap. ...more
5

Apr 24, 2017

Let me just say that I wish this novel was longer! Three hundred pages are not enough for this amazingness.

Hannah is a Jewess, a midwife, and a wife living in the 16th century Venice. Her husband was captured and sold into slavery on Malta. When he realized that nobody is going to save him, he is trying to find his own ways to survive, escape and get back to Venice.
In the meantime, a wealthy and powerful Count is asking Hannahs help to deliver his wifes baby and save him, since it is his last Let me just say that I wish this novel was longer! Three hundred pages are not enough for this amazingness.

Hannah is a Jewess, a midwife, and a wife living in the 16th century Venice. Her husband was captured and sold into slavery on Malta. When he realized that nobody is going to save him, he is trying to find his own ways to survive, escape and get back to Venice.
In the meantime, a wealthy and powerful Count is asking Hannah’s help to deliver his wife’s baby and save him, since it is his last hope to have a child and an heir to his fortune. None of the Christian midwives could help the Countess that is in labor for over two days. The Rabbi of the Ghetto forbids Hannah to help Christians and risk the safety of the entire Ghetto but after a generous offer from the Count, that can buy her husband's freedom, she accepts to help.
Delivering Countess Baby is not the most challenging thing Hannah must face. Shortly she finds herself alone with a Christian child, fighting for its safety. When there is nobody to turn for help, she goes to the person she rejected years ago, her sister, Jessica. She is now a New Christian, a woman who betrayed her people and her religion, and who is now living a not an honorable life. Would Hannah be able to save herself, the baby and her husband?

I have no words to describe how I enjoyed this novel. There is so much going on, and every time you turn another page there is drama, action, a twist, an intrigue, and a surprise!
When I read the summary of this novel, I was expecting a quite slow and steady telling of a midwife... but I was the opposite of slow. A Very captivating story, I wish there was more to it though. ...more
5

Feb 19, 2012

The Midwife of Venice by debut novelist Roberta Rich is full of great historical facts and truly does reveal the seamy and seedy side of 16th Century Venice. I was so delighted to find a new Historical novel that moves quickly and is so accurate in its portrayal of the times without trying to recapture history, but rather crafting a fresh story with new and thoroughly interesting characterizations. I was also very intrigued to learn of the enslavement of Jewish people in Italy because it is so The Midwife of Venice by debut novelist Roberta Rich is full of great historical facts and truly does reveal the seamy and seedy side of 16th Century Venice. I was so delighted to find a new Historical novel that moves quickly and is so accurate in its portrayal of the times without trying to recapture history, but rather crafting a fresh story with new and thoroughly interesting characterizations. I was also very intrigued to learn of the enslavement of Jewish people in Italy because it is so historically relevant to the persecution of Jews all over Europe in the centuries to follow. It is obvious that the seeds of much torture during the pograms of Russia and Poland up until Hitler and WWII may have been planted in places like Malta and Venice. That is why it so good for authors to explore these roots because even many Jewish persons like myself, do not always know the full history of our culture's persecution....Now, on to the review! Hannah Levi is a midwife in the ghettos of Venice during the late 1500's. She possesses excellent skill in this profession despite the fact that she herself is barren. She is known for her unique instrument called "birthing spoons" that seem to mirror modern day forceps. While many people see this tool as a miracle, she must be careful in its use because it is very easy to be branded a heretic or a witch and be sentenced to death for using items like these during this era in history. It is of course forbidden for a Jewish midwife to attend Christian births. One evening Hannah is visited by her Rabbi along with two Christian noblemen and asked to break this law to attend one of the elite man's wife who is dying in birth. The Rabbi forbids this action, but Hannah's sense of caring along with her need for money drives her to defy the rabbi and leave the ghetto to attend to the dying woman....Hannah's husband Issac is in Malta after journeying at sea to make a better life for them and is imprisoned and enslaved. The money will pay his ransom and bring these true loves back together again...Thus Hannah's motivation when she leaves with the Count(Conte) is rooted in her love for husband, her need of money and of course her devotion to her profession... Arriving at the home of the Conte we meet his beloved wife Lucia who has already lost several babies and appears to be going this route again. The Conte must have an heir soon or he will not be able to come into a fabulous inheritance. His motivations are mixed, but he does obviously love his wife enough to bring a Jewish Midwife into their lives to deliver this potential heir...It is afterall against the law for all involved... After Baby Matteo is successfully born, Lucia and the Conte make a surprise journey and leave the baby behind. I am never really sure of the true purpose of this sudden trip and am left wondering if this is just a good plot device to move the novel more into how Hannah will acquire Matteo and become his guardian as she fights to get to Issac in Malta. Meanwhile Issac will be purchased by a Nun and traded about because of his skill with pen and ink. Most of Malta is illiterate and he manages to live by his pen because of this....How does love come again?...I certainly do not want to be a spoiler, but rather you will need to read the novel yourself!...I will say though that The Midwife of Venice dwells well on the squalor of Venice and how people's social mores are often challenged for the sake of life and love. I cannot remember a more enchanting or fast read of late. Between the history and the suspense I found the pages flying by. But what gave me the most joy was Hannah who is truly a "mother" and "wife" in every sense of the word!...constancy and faith are her best tools...along with her blessed spoons! What a debut! ...more
3

Jul 29, 2014

Medieval Venice and its Jewish Ghetto and the rest of Venice is fascinating, the story reads quickly, like a good soap, which is what I thought it was. Each chapter ends with our heroine about to confront another crisis, that we never doubt she will overcome, even when its gynecological or obstetrics. Medieval Venice and its Jewish Ghetto and the rest of Venice is fascinating, the story reads quickly, like a good soap, which is what I thought it was. Each chapter ends with our heroine about to confront another crisis, that we never doubt she will overcome, even when it’s gynecological or obstetrics. ...more
3

Jan 02, 2015

This was a quick read and I liked some of the historical perspectives of life in 1500 Venice. However as other reviewers indicated, everything was a bit too black and white with herculean actions that became unbelievable for 1500 Venice.
3

Aug 29, 2017

Odd that you should choose to be a midwife, having never experienced birth yourself.

In other circumstances the words would have stung. She thought, Do not physicians provide medicaments for illnesses they have never suffered? But Hannah held her tongue. Two in her care were suspended between life and death. She had more important matters to worry about.
I want to start with a caveat: I don't tend to read historical fiction, and if I did, I wouldn't be looking for historical fiction built “Odd that you should choose to be a midwife, having never experienced birth yourself.”

In other circumstances the words would have stung. She thought, Do not physicians provide medicaments for illnesses they have never suffered? But Hannah held her tongue. Two in her care were suspended between life and death. She had more important matters to worry about.
I want to start with a caveat: I don't tend to read historical fiction, and if I did, I wouldn't be looking for historical fiction built around domestic drama and romance. So, for all I know, The Midwife of Venice might be a very fine example of its genre, and if others find it satisfying, then it succeeds. As for me, I picked this book up because I'll be in Venice next week and wanted to get in the mood – and it worked for my purpose, too. This was a fine, if lightweight, read; I doubt I'll seek out the other volumes in this trilogy.

You are ruled by men – the Rabbi, Isaac, our father when he was alive. You are a little ghetto mouse and will never be anything else.
As the book begins, Hannah – a Jewish midwife of extraordinary gifts – is summoned by a rich Venetian nobleman to attend to his wife. Not only is it against the law for Jews to offer medical aid to Christians, but as Hannah's Rabbi warns her, if either the Contessa or the baby were to die under her care, their Ghetto's entire population would be held to account. Hannah is moved by the Conte's account of his wife's condition, but more so, she sees his desperation as an opportunity: Hannah's husband, Isaac, has recently been kidnapped and enslaved by Maltese Knights, and if she is able to demand a high enough fee for her services, she'll be able to pay his ransom and bring the man she loves back home. The narrative moves between Hannah's drama in Venice and Isaac's in Malta, and with plenty of cliffhangers, manufactured suspense, and not-quite-credible circumstances, the plot advances through a fairly predictable story arc. The historical facts are often inserted inorganically:

Now he was in Valletta, capital city of Malta, stronghold of the Knights. During their long nights and endless days in jail, Simón, another Ashkenazi Jew and a fellow prisoner, had explained to Isaac that in 1530, Charles V of Spain had bestowed this island of rock and wind on the Knights of St. John in exchange for their protecting the archipelago against the infidel Turk. The Knights succeeded in defending the land from the rapaciousness of the Ottomans, but over the years they had grown greedy. Bewitched by their victories, they used the pretext of defending their island to prey not only upon the infidel ships of the Ottomans but on Christian ships as well, seizing cargo and enslaving all on board, rich or poor, merchant or servant, woman or child. They called themselves Knights but they were little more than pirates, grown rich through crimes sanctified in the name of the Holy Crusade.
And the drama was quite dramatic:

Hannah felt a pain under her breast and a tearing sensation, as though her heart had come loose from its moorings. In her mind's eye, she covered the mirror and rent her clothing. These were not the empty gestures prescribed by the Rabbi years ago, but heartfelt this time. Shiva was complete. Now, Jessica was truly dead to her.
But still, author Roberta Rich captured something of the feeling and history of Venice; this wouldn't be inappropriate for high school students to read before The Merchant of Venice in order to get a sense for Shylock and the injustices he lived under. With mention made of everything from the canals to plague doctors to Commedia dell'arte, Rich obviously put in plenty of research and she whetted my appetite for the soggy city. Good enough for my purposes. ...more
4

Oct 14, 2017

Book that starts so faceless and little bit boring , it turns to a unbelievable and amazing story. Through the adversity of a Jewish midwife, we are a silent witness of one dark side of Venice history from one side, and one great love... love for a husband, for a child, for one simple life, from the other side.
2

Oct 17, 2019

After 2 years I can finally remove this from my tbr.

Lets be honest for a moment, this was a cover buy. Like, just look at it. Other than that, the story didn't wow me. I stopped paying much attention when the author told us Hana, the protagonist, had a bone fracture but didn't notice it for days cause she was sad. To make the things even worse, she's a midwife. Yeah, no thanks.
5

Mar 18, 2020

Nothing like a global pandemic to get this gal out of her reading rut! I loved this book. Why? Because it was about a Jewess (reclaiming that word by the way because it is badass) in the 1500s. She is a midwife dealing with the demands from gentiles to deliver their babies (not legal then), needing to use advanced tools in her midwifery that get her accused of being a witch, the plague sweeping through Italy, the discrimination against Jews, and the capture of her husband who is shipped off to Nothing like a global pandemic to get this gal out of her reading rut! I loved this book. Why? Because it was about a Jewess (reclaiming that word by the way because it is badass) in the 1500s. She is a midwife dealing with the demands from gentiles to deliver their babies (not legal then), needing to use advanced tools in her midwifery that get her accused of being a witch, the plague sweeping through Italy, the discrimination against Jews, and the capture of her husband who is shipped off to another land and sold at auction to the highest bidder. Spoiler: She makes it! Female perseverance at its finest. As they were describing the horrid scenes of this time and place where every day you have to figure out how to survive in the Jewish ghetto with a severe lack of supplies, food, medicine and housing, I couldn't help but look around my own apartment and be grateful. I have everything I need. You probably do too. We're going to be okay. We must persist (but also please stay the f#$% home!). ...more
3

Jan 12, 2011

I received The Midwife of Venice as a First-Reads giveaway copy.

The Midwife of Venice opens with a difficult and potentially very dangerous situation. Hannah, a Jewish midwife in Renaissance Venice, is approached by a Christian count to attend his wife, who has already been in labour for over two days. If she complies at all, she risks arrest for breaking the law against Jewish doctors and midwives attending Christian patients, although the law is sometimes ignored. If she complies and the I received The Midwife of Venice as a First-Reads giveaway copy.

The Midwife of Venice opens with a difficult and potentially very dangerous situation. Hannah, a Jewish midwife in Renaissance Venice, is approached by a Christian count to attend his wife, who has already been in labour for over two days. If she complies at all, she risks arrest for breaking the law against Jewish doctors and midwives attending Christian patients, although the law is sometimes ignored. If she complies and the mother or child die, she can expect not only certain arrest for herself, but reprisal against the Jewish ghetto community as a whole. If she complies and is caught using the birthing spoons - rudimentary forceps - she has designed herself to aid in extremely difficult deliveries, she risks being accused of witchcraft. But Hannah's husband is being held for ransom in Malta and she may be able to get a high enough fee if she saves the count's wife and, more importantly, his heir, to pay for his freedom.

The Midwife of Venice is a very fast-paced historical novel. For me, its major plus, aside from its appealing Venetian setting and midwife protaganist, is writing that immerses the reader in its time and place. I like to feel the textures, smell the scents and odours, see the blood and grime, as I read a historical novel, and this book delivered that well.

A bit of a drawback, however, was how fast-paced the book seemed at times. I would have liked it to be about 100 pages longer, with more history of Venice, its Jewish ghetto, Malta, etc. thrown in, as well as more backstory on some of its secondary and tertiary characters.

It also seemed to race through its events, from bad news, to bad luck, to more misfortune, to outright danger. It felt like, "Could be worse, could be raining." RAIN. "Oh well, at least there isn't thunder and lightning." THUNDER AND LIGHTNING. "Thank heavens, at least there's no hail." HAIL. Replace all that weather with just about every negative complication that could happen, and that's what it felt like. A little more daily life, please. A couple more positive or even neutral characters.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but to place it in relation to other historical books I've read in the past few years, The Midwife of Venice rates a 3, Girl With a Pearl Earring rates a 4, and Crimson Petal and the White rates a 5. ...more
5

Jan 16, 2012

The Good Stuff

Fast paced and intriguing, which surprised me
Likeable realistic characters that you cheer for that they will be able to overcome the obstacles and reunite
Storyline switches between Issac and Hannah's POV - which keeps you intrigued as many of the chapters end with an almost cliffhanger like ending and than it switches to the other character.
Didn't want to put the book down
Some beautiful touching moments that made me tear up
Author has a gift for making you see the landscape The Good Stuff

Fast paced and intriguing, which surprised me
Likeable realistic characters that you cheer for that they will be able to overcome the obstacles and reunite
Storyline switches between Issac and Hannah's POV - which keeps you intrigued as many of the chapters end with an almost cliffhanger like ending and than it switches to the other character.
Didn't want to put the book down
Some beautiful touching moments that made me tear up
Author has a gift for making you see the landscape and feel the mood of the story
Obviously well researched
It still astounds me how often the Jews have been persecuted and this story brings more of these instances to life

The Not So Good Stuff

Took me a chapter or two to get into the story which might put off a more reluctant reader

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Do all Jews reply to a question with another question?

"Is there a reason they should not?"

Gertrudis gave a a laugh that seemed to issue from deep within her."

"This is your last chance. Will you sign?"

"When all the teeth have fallen out of my head and my beard is down to my waist," Isaac answered

"Then my friend make peace with that harsh God of yours. This island will be your graveyard."

"And the Society for the Release of Captives offered me my freedom months ago if I signed a divorce. But without you, what was the point of freedom?"

Who Should/Shouldn't Read

Perfect beach or cold winters night read
Definitely for lovers of historical fiction especially Jewish historical fiction
This is one that anyone can enjoy even younger readers 13+

4.75 Dewey's

My sister lent this to me because she really enjoyed (And put to the top of my TBR list because of the Random Reader Historical Challenge) ...more
2

Feb 08, 2014

Chose this book to read on a long plane trip because it was short and I needed something light to divert me--in that it succeeded. I had higher hopes for the book: an interesting setting and a strong protagonist. However, I found the writing rushed, the plot twists strained (some to implausibility), and the characters insufficiently developed. I read the ebook version and was totally surprised when it ended. I thought I had another 30-40 pages to go. I felt the book needed a few more pages to Chose this book to read on a long plane trip because it was short and I needed something light to divert me--in that it succeeded. I had higher hopes for the book: an interesting setting and a strong protagonist. However, I found the writing rushed, the plot twists strained (some to implausibility), and the characters insufficiently developed. I read the ebook version and was totally surprised when it ended. I thought I had another 30-40 pages to go. I felt the book needed a few more pages to deliver a satisfying ending. I wanted to like this book, but it felt like too many things were left out. ...more
2

Sep 04, 2015

Frankly, I only read this book because I was interested in the sequel. Now I'm nervous about the sequel.

This book follows Hannah, a Jewish midwife in Venice, as she tries to rescue her husband from slavery in Malta. Unfortunately, the book managed to be stressful and unpleasant without ever being suspenseful. This is in large part due to the complete lack of nuanced characters. Hannah and Isaac are good and pure and smart. Everyone else is eeeeeevil. No motives, no character, just evil. And the Frankly, I only read this book because I was interested in the sequel. Now I'm nervous about the sequel.

This book follows Hannah, a Jewish midwife in Venice, as she tries to rescue her husband from slavery in Malta. Unfortunately, the book managed to be stressful and unpleasant without ever being suspenseful. This is in large part due to the complete lack of nuanced characters. Hannah and Isaac are good and pure and smart. Everyone else is eeeeeevil. No motives, no character, just evil. And the plot takes so many eye-rollingly improbable twists and turns that it was hard not to laugh.

Not a wall-banger, but should "so bizarre it's actually boring" be a new shelf? ...more
3

Jan 02, 2011

A fast paced page-turner of a historical novel about the triumph of love over adversity and pestilence.

Descriptions of 16th century Venice come alive, with stains, smells, garbage, sewage, excrement and bloodthe underbelly of the city and its Jewish ghettoevocatively drawn, although bombastic analogies such as sheep piss resembling walking into the arsehole of a camel did not compute for me.

The heroine, Hannah, a midwife living in the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, is determined to re-unite with her A fast paced page-turner of a historical novel about the triumph of love over adversity and pestilence.

Descriptions of 16th century Venice come alive, with stains, smells, garbage, sewage, excrement and blood—the underbelly of the city and its Jewish ghetto—evocatively drawn, although bombastic analogies such as sheep piss resembling “walking into the arsehole of a camel” did not compute for me.

The heroine, Hannah, a midwife living in the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, is determined to re-unite with her husband Isaac who has been kidnapped by the Knights of Malta and is being held for ransom on that island. She delivers a Christian noblewoman’s baby (forbidden by law) with her pair of crude custom-made forceps (also forbidden) in an attempt to raise money to pay Isaac’s ransom. Isaac, for his part, is also making plans to escape and return to Venice. Immediately, the scene is set by placing these two lovers in opposite corners, in hard-to-win situations, and as they make their ways towards each other, the stakes are progressively escalated according to the fiction writer’s manual. Some chapters even end with the overt question – what will happen next? Overkill, perhaps?

Hanna’s and Isaac’s story lines alternate between chapters, which makes the action jerky. It also took me until the end of the novel to realize that their respective stories were about three months apart. And as the plot twisted, turned and reversed, the contrivances stuck out for me. Which parent would leave an infant, the sole heir to the family fortune, with a pair of murderous uncles who stand to inherit should the wee one “accidentally” die in plague-ridden Venice? The plague itself becomes a useful device to kill off the unlikeliest players, while the goop-covered, starving baby, tossed from breast to breast, continues to stay alive.

The women are portrayed as super-heroes, while the men are inept and effeminate, and the clergy (both Jewish and Christian) are mean-spirited. Hannah can plug a woman’s womb with a pebble to fit on a pitching boat, a pebble which she conveniently pulls out from a nook aboard the rocking vessel. And yet, a fully armed Uncle Jacopo loses his knife to Hannah in a tussle? Hmm...Sister Asunta will tether her slave Isaac to her cart and ride him into town in order to give her horse a rest. And the love-struck, sheep-piss covered Joseph has designs on the beautiful widow Getrudis, who in turn is enamoured with the emaciated Isaac... indeed!

If you can ignore the plot and situational inconsistencies, this is a good beach read, with factoids from that period in history rendered imaginatively. I just wished the author had not pursued the demands of plot but had stuck to flushing out Hannah and Isaac as more plausible characters. “Less is more” would have worked well here.
...more
5

Jan 14, 2012

Loved this novel - I was able to completely fall for Hannah and sympathize with her as she follows her conscience and delivers a Christian baby, even though she is forbidden as a Jew to do so. She feels such a calling to use the talent she is blessed with and help relieve suffering if she is able. In trying to save the wife of a Christian count and his unborn baby, she knows that she is putting herself in danger, but she puts aside her misgivings and helps in the birth. She knows that if she is Loved this novel - I was able to completely fall for Hannah and sympathize with her as she follows her conscience and delivers a Christian baby, even though she is forbidden as a Jew to do so. She feels such a calling to use the talent she is blessed with and help relieve suffering if she is able. In trying to save the wife of a Christian count and his unborn baby, she knows that she is putting herself in danger, but she puts aside her misgivings and helps in the birth. She knows that if she is successful, the money she is paid will be enough to ransom her husband Isaac, who was captured while on a sea voyage. This is a great story, filled with insight into what life was like for women, Christian and Jew, in the 1500's. Hannah knows her mind, and will not let anyone deter her from her main goal, saving the husband she loves with all her heart. Isaac is also a great character, as much in love with Hannah as she is with him, and as unwilling to forsake that love. This book was hard to put down once I started it, easily pulling me into the story and keeping me engrossed until I got to the last page. ...more
2

May 11, 2012

It was as promising at the beginning as disappointing in the end.
2

Oct 14, 2012

It's "Days of Our Lives" with an Italian accent ... completely implausible ... I kept thinking the evil Stefano was going to jump into the story and kidnap Bo or Hope. If I wasn't reading this for my book group, I'm not sure I would have pushed myself to finish it.

The plot was interesting enough, but real character development and emotional resonance were lacking. An example ... I don't want to give anything away, but it doesn't hurt to mention here that the heroine in the story is a midwife It's "Days of Our Lives" with an Italian accent ... completely implausible ... I kept thinking the evil Stefano was going to jump into the story and kidnap Bo or Hope. If I wasn't reading this for my book group, I'm not sure I would have pushed myself to finish it.

The plot was interesting enough, but real character development and emotional resonance were lacking. An example ... I don't want to give anything away, but it doesn't hurt to mention here that the heroine in the story is a midwife who happens to be infertile. In pious communities, there is tremendous value in procreation, especially having large families (be fruitful and multiply, etc.). The author doesn't really delve into how desperately disappointed a young Jewish wife/midwife might feel on an almost daily basis, when she can't have children of her own. Roberta Rich could have spent an entire book dealing with just the infertility theme, which would in itself make for a powerful read. Why doesn't our heroine sob more? Pray? Go to the mikveh? Use herbs/potions to help her own infertility? Instead, there are so many plot twists that there's little room for character development. I wanted to feel this woman's pain, and other than a little anxiety about her predicament, I didn't really "get" her as a character.

Similarly, there's a death scene in the book that happens quickly, and our heroine moves through her emotions quickly. The author should have spent more time exploring the relationship between the midwife and the person who dies, and taken us through the grief process more thoroughly. Instead, all is wrapped up in a matter of paragraphs and the author skips along to the next plot development.

There are many dangers described in the book, but they don't resonate because we don't see any of them come to fruition. Again, I don't want to give too much away, but it might have made for a powerful moment to have the Jewish ghetto threatened in a very real way, or for someone to be tortured - either by the Inquisitors or by the Knights in Malta.

Ultimately, I wanted to like this book much more. It just didn't live up to the hype. I'd like to give it 1 1/2 stars, but the book deserves two because it was a page-turner, if nothing else. ...more
4

Feb 01, 2011

I received The Midwife of Venice as a free giveaway from Goodreads. The book I received was an uncorrected proof and will be on sale Feb. 2011. I don't think I've included any spoilers but reader beware! and I apologize if I've ruined something for you.

I enjoy a good historical fiction, although Italy and the 1600s are not what I would normally pick up. Oh, and I LOVE a happy ending! I thoroughly liked this book, it was easy to read with only a few sentences in Italian (which I found easy to I received The Midwife of Venice as a free giveaway from Goodreads. The book I received was an uncorrected proof and will be on sale Feb. 2011. I don't think I've included any spoilers but reader beware! and I apologize if I've ruined something for you.

I enjoy a good historical fiction, although Italy and the 1600s are not what I would normally pick up. Oh, and I LOVE a happy ending! I thoroughly liked this book, it was easy to read with only a few sentences in Italian (which I found easy to translate). This story gives excellent detail of the environment of the Jewish ghetto, canals, and homes. It includes details of the ignorance and hatred between the Jews and Christians and of course the practices of midwifery in the 1600s.

Short summary:
Hannah, a Jewish midwife delivers a baby of a Christian noble. Hannah breaks the law by leaving the ghetto at night and by attending a Christian during a birth. She takes the risk to earn the money she needs to free her husband, Isaac, who was taken and made a slave in Malta.
Hannah ends up witnessing the kidnapping of the baby by his uncle and saves the child from being murdered. She seeks the help of her sister to keep the child safe from his Uncles until the parents return home. The plague ends up killing the parents so Hannah takes the child a boat to fetch her husband.
The book switches from Hannah's story to Isaac's story. Which includes how Isaac survives, a Nun who tries to convert him, how he writes letters for everyone in the community for profit and his attempt at escaping the island.

...more
1

May 29, 2013

I read this book because Elle Fowler has read it. Granted that Elle Fowler enjoys reading YA, I should not have set my hopes too high for this one. I truly enjoy reading historical fiction as I like history. I love how historical fiction authors take the time to use what they've found in their research for that era and weave into a story.

This book did not do it for me. It was a really *really* light read. If you're looking for something to kill the time with a book that wouldn't make you laugh I read this book because Elle Fowler has read it. Granted that Elle Fowler enjoys reading YA, I should not have set my hopes too high for this one. I truly enjoy reading historical fiction as I like history. I love how historical fiction authors take the time to use what they've found in their research for that era and weave into a story.

This book did not do it for me. It was a really *really* light read. If you're looking for something to kill the time with a book that wouldn't make you laugh hysterically and/or make you bawl your eyes out, this book is for you.

The story line was good. The characters were fairly interesting. The setting seems researched enough. Unfortunately, it did not bring me to Venice nor to Malta. That's a bit sad as Venice is very interesting in any era. I was expecting a bit of Philippa Gregory but found Roberta Rich lacking in "feelings". The book did not transport me to where ever it was I was supposed to go. The writing and scenes feel rushed. The whole Isaac parts could go entirely. I wanted Hanna (whose POV it was in Venice) and I wanted more of her.

If there was anything good about the book, it was the birthing spoons. ...more
3

Jan 26, 2012


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
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)
...more
4

Jan 03, 2012

This is one of the best historical novels I have read. I contains something for everyone within its pages.
It held my attention and kept me reading.
I thought I wouldn't like it because it was historical with religious themes...and it was a a first novel by Ms. Rich. But I enjoyed it a lot. I learned a lot from it about Being a Jew as well as a Christian during time in history. I also learned so much about being a midwife that I was not aware of before.
This novel has enough suspense to keep This is one of the best historical novels I have read. I contains something for everyone within its pages.
It held my attention and kept me reading.
I thought I wouldn't like it because it was historical with religious themes...and it was a a first novel by Ms. Rich. But I enjoyed it a lot. I learned a lot from it about Being a Jew as well as a Christian during time in history. I also learned so much about being a midwife that I was not aware of before.
This novel has enough suspense to keep readers turning the pages and such wonderfully graphic details about the surroundings in Venice that readers will smell,taste,hear and feel what the characters are experiencing.
I highly recommend this this book for reading groups as well as a casual read. It is well written. ...more
2

Jun 27, 2011

The bones of a good story are here, but as it is, this book was not a satisfying read. One-dimensional characters who did not develop at all, lack of thematic elements to bind the two separate storylines together, and a plot that lurched predictably from event to event to a weirdly anticlimactic climax and ending. The writing, however, was engaging, and I think this author has a good voice. She just needs to spend a lot more time developing a decent story.
5

Jul 29, 2018

Good story, simple but full of detail on the midwife ways and the history between jews and christians
2

Jan 05, 2013

Interesting, engrossing story but completely implausible and written for a third-grader.

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