Call the Midwife Memoirs
Season two of “Call the Midwife” ended recently, and my Sunday nights are a bit less dramatic these days. There’s a third season in the works, but until it airs in the U.S., I’m pouring over Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, which were the inspiration for the entire series. There are three books in all, and though I’m only halfway through the first, I can barely put it down.
If you watched the show, then you know it recounts the experiences of young midwives and nuns living and working in London’s East End during the early 1950s. The patients of the main characters often lived in abject poverty, sometimes as many as ten or twelve family members in a two-room flat, with no running water or toilet facilities. This made things incredibly difficult for the midwives, as the majority of babies were delivered at home, and Worth describes her experiences with honesty and compassion.
The PBS show did an excellent job re-telling the experiences, and because the books are Worth’s memories, the show’s writers had to delegate some of the stories to the other characters. Still, Chummy, Sister Bernadette, Sister Julienne, Fred, and all the other wonderful characters are mentioned in the books, and I love knowing that they truly did exist, in some form or another.
One of my favorite moments in the first book, which is also shown in the series, involves poor Chummy learning to ride a bike. At over six feet tall, she was the laughing stock of the East End, and one young boy named Jack took it upon himself to become her protector. When Jack was with Chummy, the jeering children ran away, and he was responsible for teaching her to ride a bike to visit her patients. As Worth explains, twenty-five years later, grown-up Jack worked again as a protector, “still practicising the skills he had acquired in childhood, looking after his lady.” This time, Jack was guarding the young Lady Diana Spencer, after her engagement to Prince Charles.
Details like that give me chills, and Worth’s memoirs are filled with special moments and little side notes, as well as plenty of medical jargon, too.
I’m thoroughly enjoying the books, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the PBS series.