1996: The Midwife’s Apprentice (guide to surviving a medieval childbirth)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3.5/5

Karen Cushman’s The Midwife’s Apprentice doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty details of day-to-day life in medieval times. When a homeless girl takes on the thankless task of being a midwife’s apprentice, she gains new knowledge and confidence of what she wants in life.

This book was refreshing in that it doesn’t romanticize medieval times. Alyce begins the story with no family, home or future; she is just looking to survive one day at a time. Once she becomes the apprentice to Jane Sharp, she is forced to deal with the midwife’s sharp tongue and disparaging remarks while trying to be a good person. While her life does get better, Alyce doesn’t get a traditional happy ending, but she’s found her place in life and has gained a new confidence and appreciation for doing something good with her life.

Midwifery is an interesting topic for a children’s book. Through Alyce’s sympathetic eyes, it’s quite astonishing to see what different methods were used back in this time and compare it to modern day medicine. The childbirths in the book range from being funny as the midwife tries to coax a baby out by yelling at it to dead serious when complications arise.

Both Alyce and Jane’s characters get time to shine in the novel as they tough it out in the midwife profession. Jane’s wit and Alyce’s compassion lead to some fun dialogue between them as they are both learning more about each other. Her interactions with her cat, Purr, are also humorous as the cat is her only true friend.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who want to read about the somewhat humorous and exciting ordeals of an ordinary girl who is living in a different time period – especially if interested in childbirth and medieval times.


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