The Midwife of Venice

Rich, Roberta

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Midwife of Venice
"Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers--a gift aided by the secret "birthing spoons" she designed. But when a count implores her to attend to his wife, who has been laboring for days to give birth to their firstborn son, Hannah is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical tratment to Christians, but the payment he offers is enough to ransom her beloved husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea"--P. [4] of cover.

Publisher: New York : Gallery Books, 2012, c2011
Edition: 1st Gallery Books trade pbk. ed
ISBN: 1451657471
Characteristics: 335, [9] p. ; 21 cm


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May 20, 2013
  • hershnatash rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

This book is horrible. Most of the facts about Jewish Orthodox life are completely wrong and false. For example, "shadai" is one of the many names of G-d - NOT an amulet. Jews do not put their trust in amulets - only in G-d. Also, Jews in the ghetto DID NOT speak fluent Italian. They spoke Yiddish and Hebrew. There was not even a possibility that Jews had any desire to keep contact with any non-Jews. The author did NOT do a good job on the research aspect. This story would have NEVER happened - EVER - in any kind of history (even in parallel universes).
Go read a different book

Jan 16, 2013
  • eyelandgirl rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A good read with interesting historic perspective. The husband's side of the story is implausible, and like many good stories the end seems to get rushed together to sum it up neatly. But I still enjoyed the history, having seen this area of Vencie, it was interesting to imagine the life of the people there at that time.

Oct 21, 2012
  • claire1953 rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Although I read the book in it's entirety, it was only because it was so ridiculous and improbable. I would not recommend it.

Jun 26, 2012
  • Rosina rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

If you like history you'll enjoy this though it is fiction but the premise could be real although it probably wouldn't have ended so happily in real times.

Jun 05, 2012
  • BPLNextBestAdults rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Hannah is a skilled midwife living in the Jewish ghetto in 16th century Venice. Her husband has been captured at sea and living as a slave in Malta. She is desperate to bring him home, but with no money, she is unable to do so. One evening, against her Rabbi’s wishes, she agrees to help a Christian woman during a difficult birth. Hoping to pay her husband’s ransom, she has been offered a great deal of money by the woman’s distraught husband. What ensues becomes a fast-paced historical thriller, where Hannah is running for her life from people who think nothing of destroying her life and the lives of her family. Great choice for historical fiction readers.

Apr 28, 2012

Very disappointing. The plot seemed to plod through chapters and chapters. As I read it, I kept thinking, "just end already". My cat loved the feel of the cover, so she enjoyed it more than I did.

Apr 10, 2012
  • ruthiesu rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book is excellent. Very fast-paced and believable for a historical novel........I would definitely recommend it.

grp. April 10, 2012

Mar 02, 2012

I found this to be only an 'okay' read and in particular found the ending to seem really rushed. I expected a lot more.

Jan 28, 2012
  • readingchick rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

With all the hype this book has engendered, I expected something better. The plot was just too unbelievable and the characters too perfect although the premise was a good one. I did finish reading this tale but not without bemoaning the heavy handedness of the plotting.

Jan 13, 2012
  • Cdnbookworm rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This historical novel is set in Venice and Malta in the sixteenth century. Hannah Levi is a midwife in Venice, renowned for her skill in difficult births. Her husband Isaac is being held for ransom in Malta, caught as he was making a sea voyage to buy merchandise. After years of trying the couple has no children themselves. When Hannah is asked by a Christian nobleman to assist at a birth, she is torn between her humanitarian impulses to save lives and the papal decree against medical treatment by Jews to Christians. With the hope to obtain money to free Isaac, she decides to assist in the birth. This decision changes her life forever. Hannah has overcome her natural fear of risk to deliver this child, and must fight prejudice, criminal behaviour, and difficult circumstances to save her own life. Meanwhile in Malta, Isaac must fight against his natural argumentative tendency and work to save his own life with the skills he has as a literate, educated man.
The reader is sympathetic to Hannah and her plight, caught between a rock and a hard place as it were. Hannah's family history also comes into this story and her rabbi isn't presented in the best light. There are good and bad of every religious persuasion here and that adds to the realistic nature of the novel. A story of love, honour, and survival, this novel tells a good story.

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Jul 06, 2011

Historical novels can open windows onto the past, shedding light on parts of society previously hidden from view. Already segregated because of their religion, and with their influence kept to the private sphere, the lives of Jewish women in Renaissance Venice were more concealed than many.

In her debut novel, Roberta Rich introduces a unique heroine, and her wry humour leavens a serious subject. Not wholly an intense social drama or an over-the-top adventure, The Midwife of Venice is a quirky yet diverting blend of both.

For those looking for a meaty historical novel that leaves no loose ends, this may not be the best book to choose. But if you might like seeing Jewish folklore and Mediterranean history wrapped into a rousing story, suspend your disbelief for a time and follow along with Hannah and Isaac as they fight their way back to one another.
"Reading the Past"


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