Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Midwife of Venice - Roberta Rich - Author Interview

Author interview with Roberta Rich

Welcome to The Little Reader Library Roberta!
You note at the back of the book that you first had the idea of writing about Hannah whilst wandering through Venice? Is that somewhere that you have visited much; was it a place of particular interest for you?
I first visited Venice in 2007 for a few days. I fell in love with the city- there is no other place like it in the world and it is difficult to imagine how it works until you have visited. I desperately wanted to return. Venice, as anyone who has been there will testify, is crazily expensive but I managed to find a nice little studio just outside the ghetto in Cannaregio which the landlord rented to me inexpensively. As a way of saying thanks, I named one of my characters after him.

Hannah is a brave woman of her time, she makes difficult decisions; was it important to you right from the start that the heroine of your novel was a strong character?
I was enthralled  the idea of a traditional, conservative woman who had lead a very sheltered life to be forced by necessity to do something contrary to her nature. Hannah is caught between two men, the Rabbi who commands her not to attend to the suffering of a Christian woman, and the Conte who begs her to come. Hannah forges her own path between these two men, demanding a large sum of money from the Conte so that she may ransom her husband.  
Hannah is a strong person, but I think don't think this is atypical of women then or now.  Women have always had to be strong to survive. Making difficult decisions is part of that strength.  I wanted my heroine to reflect this strength and be someone other woman could empathize with.     

I think there is a fine sense of detail in the novel that evokes the atmosphere, the sights, the people and the smells of Venice and Malta back then. Did you enjoy your reading and research into the background for your story?
I love doing research and, after a certain point, had to force myself to stop reading and start writing. Setting the sequel in Constantinople gave me a whole new stack of books to delve into and an excuse (not that I need one) to visit Istanbul.

I’ve heard that there may be more to come from Hannah and Isaac, can you tell us any more about what you are working on?
I just finished the sequel which is set in Constantinople where Isaac owns a silk workshop.  Hannah is working as a midwife in the Sultan's harem.  Isaac's deceased brother's wife, or rather a woman pretending to be her, arrives in Constantinople, claiming return of a loan made by her late husband.

Are there any past or present authors who are an inspiration to you when writing?
I am a huge fan of Elmore Leonard for his ability to create vivid characters with only a few lines of dialogue.

Where do you do your writing? Where is your favourite place to write?
In my estudio in Colima, Mexico with the hummingbirds dive-bombing the wild hibiscus outside the window and the vanilla vines doing lascivious things to the white stucco walls, and my dog at my feet and the angelfish chasing each other in the aquarium.

My former dog, Maggie, a German shepherd, died a year ago and for months I just sat at the computer trying to write, remembering what a patient, steady buddy she was. I used to read aloud to her. If she continued snoozing, I knew revisions were in order. If she looked up, wriggled her eyebrows and thumped her tail, I knew I was on the right track.

Now I have a another shepherd, a puppy named Stella. She is too young to be much of a critic but she tries to help by stealing pens off my desk and nipping my hands when I take them off the keyboard.

Who is your favourite literary character and why?
The answer to this question varies from month to month, year to year. At the moment, my favourite character is from Elmore Leonard’s Maximum Bob. Judge Bob Gibbs is a crotchety, deranged  good ole boy living in Palm Beach, Florida who falls in love with a young girl who swims as a mermaid in a nightclub act. The plot is a little rickety but I love this character.

Thank you very much for your time Roberta!

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich is published by Ebury Press and is out now in paperback, priced £6.99

You can visit the website for the author and this novel here.


  1. Great interview! I'm so excited to hear that there will be a sequel!

    1. Yes me too! Thanks so much for visiting Dana.

  2. This sounds like a really unique story!
    I'm a new fan and follower!
    Would love it if you can drop by my blog and tell me what you think!

    I'll stay tuned!

    1. Thanks for visiting, commenting and following Sel. Off to visit your blog now!


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