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by Sam Thomas
Minotaur Books, January 2013
320 pages
ISBN: 1250010764

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

One of the most satisfying things about reading for me is the interesting things I learn along the way. My school years covered very little of England's history, so reading a book like THE MIDWIFE'S TALE, set during the English Civil War, opens all sorts of new doors for me.

When Martha Hawkins appears in Bridget Hodgson's life, Bridget looks on her as a godsend. Her household staff is under strength and Martha, able and strong, immediately fills a void. A bonus is that she is also helpful with Bridget's midwife practice. However, when Martha's brother arrives in York, Bridget begins to fear that Martha may not be quite who she claims to be, or at least parts of her story don't seem to ring true.

But Bridget has a more immediate concern. Esther Cooper, one of her patients and friends, is suspected of having a hand in her husband's death. If found guilty, Esther will surely be sentenced to burn at the stake. As Bridget and Martha investigate, family secrets and political alliances are uncovered, putting the two women in danger.

The historical details in THE MIDWIFE'S TALE are what make this book stand out. There is quite a bit of interesting information about midwifery in the 1600s given within the plot of the story so the reader learns a great deal without the feeling of an information dump.

One of the most interesting details for me is the status of a midwife in that time period. Her profession opened doors for Bridget and allowed her to move freely across all levels of society. She also was given the unpleasant task of rooting out who the father was of unwed mothers' children in order to force them to support the child. This task puts her in a great deal of danger.

THE MIDWIFE'S TALE is the debut of a series by a history teacher who specializes in the Reformation and who teaches in Cleveland, Ohio. Soundly researched, it has some of the same interest in women and medicine found in Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series.

Caryn St.Clair resides in University City, Missouri and is a former elementary school media specialist, President of the Parks Commission and a docent at the St.Louis Zoo.

Reviewed by Caryn St Clair, December 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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