Hannah Levi is a midwife in the Jewish ghetto of Venice in 1575. When a Christian nobleman asks her to attend his wife, she initially refuses. After all, it is forbidden by law for a Jew to give care to a Christian. But he is desperate - his wife has been labouring for 2 days and is near death. Against the wishes of her rabbi, Hannah agrees - the nobleman has agreed to pay an exorbitant fee. That fee will allow Hannah to buy back her husband Isaac, who has been captured and forced into slavery in Malta.
The Midwife of Venice is full of rich historical detail - the social mores and customs of the time, religious differences and a fascinating look at midwifery. The chapters alternate between Hannah in Venice and Isaac in Malta and their continuing struggle to be together. Isaac's chapters are just as full of historical detail, but the characters in these chapters seemed a little overdrawn, such as the nun who buys Isaac. It is Hannah and her tale I enjoyed the most. Her character came to life on the page.
Rich has successfully combined history, suspense and romance into a fascinating page turner. My only complaint - it ended too soon! But it looks like a sequel is in the works - I'll be picking it up for sure.
Read an excerpt of The Midwife of Venice. For book clubs - there is a reader's guide.
**Congratulations to Roberta Rich - The Midwife of Venice is #8 on the Globe and Mail hardcover bestseller list!**