On Thursday, I stayed up too late finishing The Birth House. While it kept me turning pages and was an interesting story, I was left feeling a little disappointed. It wasn't really what I expecting, I guess (most notably, there was not as much content about birth or midwifery). Also, I didn't necessarily click with the "literary scrapbook" style--it seemed a little "dramatic" and improbable at times or otherwise disjointed. The author's style reminded me of Catherine Cookson--lots of downtrodden women, rape, abuse, etc. The story was set during WWI, but I kept feeling like it was earlier--like 1850 and so my mental images of the women were "off" a little--i.e. some of the women got their hair bobbed and I was thinking, "hey, aren't they wearing bonnets on the prairie?" That wasn't the author's fault though! Some of the characters form a women's group called the "Occasional Knitters Society" and I really enjoyed the sections about that group--it was a strong core of women that pulled together to support each other.
Of course, I was reminded of our current efforts in MO to legalize midwifery, in the book's portrayal of the doctor arriving nearby and building a "safe, clean maternity home" with "pain free childbirth" and encouraging all of the women to stop receiving midwifery care ("not safe" or "hygienic"). Ugh! Sounds all too familiar! The main character, Dora, apprentices as a midwife with the elderly Bay midwife in her small community in Nova Scotia. However, as I referenced earlier, Dora only ends up attending like 5 births in the book (382 pages). The rest of it is about other elements of her life, her marriage, etc. While this isn't *bad*, it just wasn't what I was expecting from a book called The Birth House and the jacket copy that leads one to believe that it is a book about a birth house (save one, the only births that actually take place in the house happen in the epilogue or in foreshadowing, but no detail/story).