Tales From A Midwife, By Jennifer Worth

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The Independent Culture

From 2002 to 2009, Jennifer Worth published three dramatic, riveting, memoirs of her years as a midwife in the 1950s East End. This omnibus volume brings the trilogy together.

Her evocations of the bawdiness and booziness, the soul-squeezing poverty and life-curtailing disease, of the docks area served by nuns of "Nonnatus House" (with whom she worked) justly became bestsellers.

New readers should start here. But feeble males must first get a grip. For Worth tells it like it is; and her brisk frankness about birth, copulation and death can make Irvine Welsh read like Barbara Cartland.

If you don't care for the details of terrified teens at full term, or botched abortions, look away now. Her compassion and anger drive the shock and gore.