Call The Midwife
A True Story of the East End
in the 1950s
Geoffrey Sutton / suttong.com
I read Call the Midwife because I liked the TV show, and my wife recommended the book. I’m a child of 1950s London and grew up with stories from the old days. Both of my parents are from large London families who survived both World Wars in the city. They lived in small 19th century dwellings and other relatives lived in multi-storey tenements built in the 1800s. So, for me, reading this tragic tale is a sort of time travel. I’m from Islington and though I’ve walked the streets of Poplar, experienced the blinding London smog, and wandered about the docklands on the Isle of Dogs, I did not realise the extent of the poverty in the 1950s.
I also appreciated the snapshot of history—the time it took to repair bombed out London. What a difference birth control has made! How many opportunities are now open to women—I’m thinking of my granddaughters—compared to my mother and those of her generation who were middle aged during the 50s.
Sadly, women are still sexually exploited all over the world. The author’s portrayal of a brothel appropriately evokes disgust. Her description of the compassion of the women at Nonnatus house is amazing considering many were born during, or not long after, the Victorian era. It’s also encouraging to read about Christians busily meeting the needs of their community rather than pontificating about how to live a righteous life.
I thought she did a credible job presenting the Cockney accent. I suspect some readers unfamiliar with British English may have some difficulties with other words and expressions. I hope readers will carry on by finding meaningful connections to the people of London’s East End and the incredibly dedication of the nurses and midwives who served them.
Finally, as a psychologist, I appreciated the inclusion of people who struggled with mental disorders at a time when effective treatments of mental illness were in early stages of development and largely unavailable.
Geoffrey W. Sutton, PhD is Emeritus Professor of Psychology. He retired from a clinical practice and was credentialed in clinical neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. His website is www.suttong.com
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