Jennifer Worth’s first volume of her trilogy covers her transition from nurse at a regimented and hierarchical hospital to midwife in a convent where lay nurses work side-by-side with their cloistered, religious sisters in the docklands of the East End of London in the 1950s. She arrives at Nonnatus House convinced there is no God and suspicious of the motivation of the nuns with whom she lives and works. But through the telling of vignettes about the women she serves, the family members she meets through them, and her colleagues from Nonnatus, she comes to respect the nuns and their religious life, and even sees the hand of God acting in response to their prayers when everything she was taught in medical school would deny the possibility of the outcomes she sees.
I was familiar with Jenny Lee, the author; the three midwives she works with, Trixie, Cynthia, and Chummy; and the sisters at Nonnatus House, Sisters Julienne, Evangelina, and Monica Joan; through the PBS series of the same name. But I missed the earliest episodes and therefore much of the context of life near the London docks right after World War II. I felt as though I held the diaries of these women as I read each of the stories of new life in uncertain times. I am pleased by how true to the characters Jenny describes the PBS versions seem.
And I look forward to locating copies of the second and third volumes of the memoirs of Jennifer Worth.
- Print Length: 352 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Rep Mti edition (August 29, 2012)
- Genre: Nonfiction, Women’s Studies, History, Great Britian, Biographies & Memoirs