I don't usually read nonfiction, but this month's books were fascinating. If you like the PBS series Call the Midwife, then you might want to check out the memoirs it is based on, written by Jennifer Worth.
Worth was a midwife and nurse in the 1950s and worked in London's East End. She wrote her memoirs about 50 years later, and the detail in them is amazing. They are written in an interesting way, and provide a lot of detail to how things were done then and how they are done now. There are some amazing stories, and some horrific stories.
In the Call the Midwife series, there are three books:
A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
This talks about how Worth became a midwife, and introduces you to the nuns she worked with, and the other midwives. Worth breaks up the seriousness of childbirth with amusing stories of her coworkers. There is a story about a young girl who was tricked into prostitution which is pretty graphic.
Shadows of the Workhouse
This volume talks very little about midwifery and instead Worth talks about the nursing she did to the elderly. In Shadows she describes the workhouse conditions and how those who had spent time in the workhouse suffered from the effects of it their entire lives.
Farewell to the East End
More babies being born! This volume does have some rather graphic descriptions of backstreet abortions and what I think they called "medical rape." The descriptions of the abortions did cause me to think some, but did not change my personal opinion on abortion. We find out what happened to all the people Worth knew.
I think that what is so fascinating about these memoirs is that they seem completely unrealistic, but you know that they really happened. They definitely aren't for the feint hearted (even the details of giving birth might turn some people away), but I think there is an importance in knowing history--the good times and the bad times. I feel that a lot of the time we are given history through the middle class glasses, and to hear about the lower class definitely changes the way you view it. I think Worth also did a very good job at pointing out that certain laws or acts that seem horrible to us now (and were horrible) were actually a step in the right direction. She tried to write from the social norms of the time she was writing of and not the time she was writing in.
I think these books are amazing and should be read, but I also send out a caution that they aren't always the easiest or happiest books to read.