Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich: Mini Book Review

The Midwife of Venice
by Roberta Rich
Doubleday Canada (Random House)
ISBN: 978-0-385-66827-9
Buy From Indigo

Description: Hannah Levi is known throughout sixteenth-century Venice for her skill in midwifery. When a Christian count appears at Hannah''s door in the Jewish ghetto imploring her to attend his labouring wife, who is nearing death, Hannah is forced to make a dangerous decision. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it''s also punishable by torture and death. Moreover, as her Rabbi angrily points out, if the mother or child should die, the entire ghetto population will be in peril.

But Hannah's compassion for another woman's misery overrides her concern for self-preservation. The Rabbi once forced her to withhold care from her shunned sister, Jessica, with terrible consequences. Hannah cannot turn away from a labouring woman again. Moreover, she cannot turn down the enormous fee offered by the Conte. Despite the Rabbi's protests, she knows that this money can release her husband, Isaac, a merchant who was recently taken captive on Malta as a slave. There is nothing Hannah wants more than to see the handsome face of the loving man who married her despite her lack of dowry, and who continues to love her despite her barrenness. She must save Isaac.

Meanwhile, far away in Malta, Isaac is worried about Hannah's safety, having heard tales of the terrifying plague ravaging Venice. But his own life is in terrible danger. He is auctioned as a slave to the head of the local convent, Sister Assunta, who is bent on converting him to Christianity. When he won't give up his faith, he's traded to the brutish lout Joseph, who is renowned for working his slaves to death. Isaac soon learns that Joseph is heartsick over a local beauty who won't give him the time of day. Isaac uses his gifts of literacy and a poetic imagination-not to mention long-pent-up desire-to earn his day-to-day survival by penning love letters on behalf of his captor and a paying illiterate public.

Back in Venice, Hannah packs her ""birthing spoons"-secret rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births-and sets off with the Conte and his treacherous brother. Can she save the mother? Can she save the baby, on whose tiny shoulders the Conte's legacy rests? And can she also save herself, and Isaac, and their own hopes for a future, without endangering the lives of everyone in the ghetto?

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)


  1. I've been thinking about this one for a few days now! Great to see that you liked it, and I'll put it on my TBR pile. :)

  2. Yes, you must get it Angel -- if you read it by Feb 29th you have a chance to win a prize from the Random Reader blog (Link above)

  3. Anything that takes place in Venice goes on my reading list.

  4. I read this one as well for this challenge. It├Ęs so interesting to read the other reviews of it.

  5. Dana - I liked your review as well - you made some excellent points