Tag Archives: London

‘Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s’ by Jennifer Worth

Call the MidwifestarstarstarstarWhat a wonderful read, in so many ways. Finding a true story that is truly a page turner is amazing. I learned so much  about the London East End and public health in the 1950s. The poverty and struggle are quite graphically portrayed but it is the beauty and the courage of  the women that shines through. At a time when much of London had disgustedly turned a blind eye to this region of slums and dockyard tenements, it was the trained midwives of a local convent that bravely laboured to work amongst the poorest of the poor. Visiting homes at all hours of the day and night, often on a bicycle, they offered safety and support to those women who could not afford doctor assisted deliveries. But this book is about so much more than childbirth.

Jennifer Worth was a midwife and she tells her own engaging story. But she doesn’t portray herself as a heroine. Jennifer considered the women she served and delivered to be the true heroines for managing to keep families happily together in unbelievably squalid, cramped, and inadequate conditions. Worth guards against judgment and instead seeks to look deep within and find the good in everyone. She achieves this with a lighthearted style that  includes a great deal of good humour, frivolity, and irreverence…even in a convent!

Call the Midwife is the first in the trilogy, followed by Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End. I chose to read the Illustrated Edition, full of original photos and historic posters, which greatly enhanced the reading.

There is also a popular BBC period drama series in two seasons based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, entitled Call the Midwife. The series has been praised for its sharp blend of period charm and hard-hitting social commentary, also evident in the books.

BBC News clip – Family pride of woman who inspired Call the Midwife

‘I Never Knew that About London’ by Christopher Winn

I Never Knew that About LondonstarstarstarMy children know what I like and I just had a birthday! I scored two books and a jigsaw puzzle. You’ll hear about the fiction book after I ready it and the jigsaw was enjoyed over Christmas. This non-fiction book is Winn’s educational trivia about London and I love trivia!

Whether in the form of trivial pursuit games, tv shows like “Jeopardy/Millionaire/In it to Win it”, pub quizzes, or brain teasers, count me in! Since I live on London’s doorstep and often venture into the city, I will be enjoying this guide section by section as a travel companion to educate myself and others on interesting tidbits and historical facts. I’ll either be admired for my impressive knowledge or considered a crashing bore…either way I’m really looking forward to the learning! 🙂

Christopher Winn is a freelance writer and collector of trivia. He has other similar volumes on England, Scotland, Wales, River Thames, the Royals, etc. His wife Mai Osawa illustrates his books with beautiful sketches. His website is:

Christopher Winn’s Website

‘Corduroy Mansions’, by Alexander McCall Smith

Corduroy Mansions is a boarding house in the Pimlico district of London. The building is  a lovely crumbling mansion block, and just like corduroy fabric it is slightly worn but still sturdy, and ever so comforting.

In this new series by Alexander McCall Smith (Sandy), we meet a Pimlico Terrier (a fictitious breed created by the author) and a host of characters whose lives intersect in a variety of ordinary but intriguing ways. What most of the characters have in common of course, is that they live in Corduroy Mansions. There are real people in this book, not stereotypes (with the exception perhaps, of Oedipus Snark, Liberal Democrat, who behaves as horribly as most people would expect of a politician).

There is a profound warmth and depth to McCall Smith’s characters in all of the series he has created, the most well known being the No. 1 Ladies Detective Series set in Botswana. In this new series, his seemingly scattered vignettes are skillfully woven together but the book is more about personalities than events. Less is learned about the setting – it is my wish to get on the train and visit Pimlico to see if I can find the Belgian shoe store!

Like 44 Scotland Street which was first published in installments in The Scotsman newspaper before it was bound into book form, Corduroy Mansions first appeared in installments online. In fact, the second bunch has been bound into a book called The Dog who Came in from the Cold, and the third is unfolding online as we speak, at the The Telegraph website. Have a look.

corduroymansionsbyalexandermcca

I’ve included below a CBC interview that Shelagh Rogers did with the author in Newfoundland. The interview is very funny and captures the author’s good humour and quick wit, and he has some very interesting thoughts on Africa.

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