- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Gallery Books (February 14, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 1451657471
- Source: Publisher
Hannah Levi is known throughout the Jewish ghetto of Venice as a midwife that can coax the most reluctant babies out of the wombs of their mothers. The tools of her trade are “birthing spoons” that she designed herself. One evening, she is approached by a count, begging her to assist his wife who has been laboring for hours. Jews are forbidden from performing medical treatments on Christians, but Hannah, desperate to be able to pay the ransom for her husband, agrees to assist.
When she arrives, she doesn’t receive a warm welcome from many of the members of the Countess’ family. To them, she is equivalent to a witch performing magic. The Count, desperate to have an heir, is willing to put the life of his child before that of his wife. The choice Hannah makes puts not only her life at risk, but the lives of the Countess’ baby and that of her husband.
Set in 16th century Venice, The Midwife of Venice is lush with rich historical detail. The reader not only gets a glimpse inside the social and religious customs of the time but also a unique look a the history of midwifery. Additionally, Rich creates a vivid character in Hannah Levi, a heroine that any reader would root for. The chapters alternate between the points of view of Hannah in Venice and her husband, a prisoner in Malta. As Hannah battles to travel to Malta to save her husband, he has assumed she has died due to the plague and attempts to start a new life in her absence. The journey Hannah embarks upon to rescue her husband adds a level of suspense to the story, something I truly enjoyed. I couldn’t read the book fast enough, I found myself putting my own “real life” on hold so I could find out what happened to Hannah. Yet when it ended, I ached for more, not because I don’t think the author concluded the story adequately, but because I didn’t want to part with the characters I’d grown to love.
Rich reinvigorates my love of historical fiction. Rich historical detail, a little bit of suspense, how can one resist? Highly recommended.
Check back tomorrow for a guest post from Roberta Rich (and a giveaway)! Until then, please take a look at this clip of Rich discussing how she fell in love with Venice:
Tags: Gallery Books, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Review