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

Sunday 19 February 2012

The Midwife of Venice - Roberta Rich

'They say you have magic in your hands.'

The year is 1575, and late one night in the Jewish ghetto in Venice, midwife Hannah Levi receives a visit from two men asking her to attend the birth of a child, to assist and use her renowned skill in her profession to help this woman through a particularly difficult birth. For the Conte di Padovani, the father of the child, Hannah is his last hope. However, Hannah is Jewish, and the woman involved is a Christian. It is unheard of, indeed forbidden, for her to attend a Christian birth. Torn between the instructions of her Rabbi forbidding her to go, warning her that were something to go wrong, it would not just be her that is blamed, but the whole of the ghetto, and yet keenly aware of the suffering and the needs of the desperate mother to be, and with her missing husband Isaac at the forefront of her thoughts, Hannah makes a decision. She will help the Conte di Padovani, if he will reward her with enough money to free her husband, who has been taken prisoner and is now held in Malta. He agrees, and so Hannah risks everything to have the chance to save her husband.

Though Hannah's story dominates, Isaac's story is also told in detail, and throughout the novel there are alternate chapters about them both, often with tension created in Hannah's story just as we move back to Valletta to find out about Isaac's situation, thereby encouraging us to read on fast. I found the storyline engaging, and I was rooting for both Hannah and Isaac as they dealt with their own individual dilemmas and trials, whilst at the same time both sharing the ultimate aim of being back together again. The couple have no child of their own, a bittersweet situation for a midwife. As for Venice, this is not the romantic idealised image of the city, rather this is a dirty, dark city of secrets and shadows. The atmosphere, the sights and sounds, and the sense of place are all richly evoked in this compelling historical novel. Definitely one to sit back and enjoy, and immerse yourself in the period setting, to get lost in the streets of Venice and Valletta, and lose yourself in the adventure of the story. I read it in only a couple of sittings and I think this added to my enjoyment. 


Thank you very much to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel to read and give an honest review.

Published on 16th February 2012 by Ebury ~ available now.

Author Roberta Rich will be visiting The Little Reader Library as part of her blog tour on Wednesday 22nd February - do please visit and read her interview!


  1. Sounds like a very rich reading experience!


    1. I found it really enjoyable, got lost in the story. Thanks for commenting Melissa.

  2. I've seen another review of this book aside from yours, and I think it is one I would really enjoy.

    You should link this review to Venice in February:

    1. Thanks Sam I will go and have a look at that now!

  3. Great review. I read and reviewed this one recently as well and liked it as much as you did. I will definitely be back for the interview!


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