Thursday, 16 February 2012

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Midwife of Venice - Roberta Rich

Release Date: 16/02/12


At midnight, the dogs, cats, and rats rule Venice. The Ponte di Ghetto Nuovo, the bridge that leads to the ghetto, trembles under the weight of sacks of rotting vegetables, rancid fat, and vermin. Seeping refuse on the streets renders the pavement slick and the walking treacherous. It was on such a night that the men came for Hannah. Hannah Levi, a midwife in the Jewish ghetto, is known throughout Venice for her skills. When the Conte di Padovani appears at Hannah's door imploring her to attend his wife in her travails, Hannah's compassion is tested. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it's also punishable by torture ...and death. But Hannah cannot turn down the money the Count will reward her with if she is successful in delivering him an heir. With such a handsome sum, she can save her own husband, Isaac, who was captured at sea and taken to Malta as a slave of the Knights of St. John. Aided by her "birthing spoons" - rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births, themselves illegal, will Hannah be able to save both mother and child? And if she fails how will she be able to save herself, let alone her husband?


Historical Fiction has to do a number of things to capture the reader, firstly they need a solid believable lead character and perhaps secondly they need to do not only the research on the time period, but make sure that the reader can connect to the relevant time.

What Roberta does with this story is present a story that has great depth, with solid prose and of course an overall arc that not only grips the reader from the start but allows them to feel the periods prejudices and worry about the effects of choices upon those within. It’s clever, it’s a story that’s hard to put down and of course it’s a tale that will keep you gripped to the last page. Magical.

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