“Call The Midwife” Memoir Trilogy Offers More Poplar Details For TV Fans
The popular BBC show Call The Midwife tells the story of young nurse, Jenny Lee, and her fellow midwives at Nonnatus House. If you’re not already in love with this program, check it out for a binge-watchable character-driven drama, including historical detail, snarky nuns, medical complications, and female friendships, plus loads of adorable babies.
The TV show is based on the memoirs of real-life Poplar midwife Jennifer Worth, in her trilogy of books: Call the Midwife, Shadows of The Workhouse, Farewell To The East End. Worth also published a fourth memoir, In The Midst of Life, after a departure from midwifery to care for terminally ill patients, just like her television counterpart Jenny Lee.
In her memoirs, Worth is matter-of-fact in her descriptions, with a dry wit for commentary. (My favorite is a quiet suggestion that the lack of televisions in Poplar homes may have contributed to the large size of the families.) She is able to describe harsh conditions, from both medically complicated pregnancies to life in poverty, in a way that’s readable and realistic, not romanticized. Worth keeps both her youthful optimism and her experienced reflection, making the entire book feel like a long visit with the show’s mature Jenny (voiced by Vanessa Redgraves).
The show touches on the social changes brought by the British National Health System, making brief but tantalizing references to the way socialized healthcare affects Poplar life, but the book explores this in more detail. Also, I love the show’s Chummy, Trixie and Cynthia, so it was great to see them as more complex characters in the book. (Of course, their story arcs don’t flow nearly as neatly, but that’s real life for you.)
A quick scan of the (generally very high) Amazon reviews reveals multiple 1-star commenters quite upset to discover medical or sexual content in this book, so be aware that Call The Midwife is a book about…being a midwife.