Shadows of the Workhouse

Worth, Jennifer

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Shadows of the Workhouse
The Call the midwife trilogy is comprised of Call the midwife (not included here, c2002), Shadows of the workhouse (this book, c2005), and Farewell to the East End (not included here, c2009). Together, this series chronicles Jennifer Worth's career as a midwife from start to finish, from her arrival in the war-scarred Docklands as a wide-eyed trainee, to the demolition of the tenements and subsequent closure of Nonnatus House. It provides a fascinating snapshot of social history, documenting the East End in the days when there was a real sense of community, when times were tough but there was plenty of good humour and neighbourly support to help the inhabitants through the harsh economic climate. The book also enables readers to follow Jennifer's personal story, as she discovers the amazing resilience of a population still bearing the scars of war, and the vibrant community of nuns with whom she lives and who teach her the skills of midwifery. In stories that are funny, disturbing and moving in equal measure, we meet prostitutes and abortionists, bigamists and mischievous nuns, and see Jennifer earn the confidence of people whose lives are often stranger than fiction.

Publisher: New York : Ecco/HarperCollins, [2013], c2005
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 0062270044
Characteristics: 294 p. ; 21 cm


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Dec 23, 2014
  • mahallett rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

this book seemed sadder than the 1st one. such hard lives. i find
sister monica joan so tedious both in the book and the tv show. is she popular?

Oct 30, 2014
  • readerpat rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I really loved this book. It is much better than the TV series.
I was shocked by the cruelty in the Workhouse and the deplorable conditions in the trenches in WW1

Aug 27, 2014
  • Jane60201 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

It was ok but not as interesting and full of social history as the earlier book.

Mar 11, 2014
  • mvkramer rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

It was great to see the characters from the first volume back again, as well as meeting new characters. These stories focus less on Jennifer Worth's work as a midwife and more on the people she met as a nurse, older people whose lives, in many cases, had been blighted by their pasts. Learning more about the workhouse system and what it did to people was eye-opening to say the least -- and descriptions of working-class life in the 40's and earlier made me feel lazy and extremely ungrateful. The luxury we live with now compared to what people had to live with a century ago is amazing. The story of Mr. Collett, in particular, nearly made me cry. Touching stories that left me wanting more.

Mar 01, 2014

MsMicawber appears to have things back to front. The trilogy of 3 books are the memoirs of Jennifer Worth. The DVD's (TV shows) came later and are supposedly based on the books but, like most TV series that are based on 'true fact' books, they frequently end up being manipulated until they are far from the truth. I grew up in England during the war and I lived in poverty and Jennifer's account are as true in every detail as to what it was like in those days for many people. MsMicawber is apparently one of many people who believe everything on TV is real. These books are a joy to read.

Jan 08, 2014
  • kozakd rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

All three books are a joy to read and offer a descriptive and fascinating view of life from the first half of the 20th century. I especially liked reading from the feminists perspective and it is a good reminder of how times have changed. The read is not ruined if you watched the DVD first.

Jul 07, 2013
  • cm510 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This second book in the Midwife series described in depth a few of the people the author met in London. She writes about such poverty, and often cruelty, that she witnessed. Yet, these people were so strong! Jennifer Worth, again, writes about them with great respect.

May 29, 2013
  • ownedbydoxies rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I love Jennifer Worth's reminiscences of her time as mid-wife and as nurse. Society has certainly changed since the time she represents (1950s Britain), however the inner wants and needs of human beings has not and these books bring various individuals to life in all their complicated foibles. Lovable, is the word that springs to mind.

Apr 30, 2013
  • busstop101 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

MsMicawber, Have you read Jennifer Worth's "Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hardtimes"? That is considered the 1st in the series of 3 books of Ms. Worth's time as young nurse in London's East End. The book that you just gave 1 star to is 2nd in the series and is about the poor obviously struggling in the workhouses and not about the nurses tending to pregnant women.


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