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The Midwife of Venice Paperback – February 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Rich skillfully incorporates a wealth of historical detail into her riveting tale of a heroine who won't give up on her marriage.”—Chicago Tribune

"Riveting and compulsively readable,The Midwife of Venice combines fast- paced adventure with richly evocative historical writing." —

“A cliffhanger-strewn debut … breathless historical adventure.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Successfully captures the seedy side of 16-century Venice." — Publishers Weekly

"Rich’s fascinating historical details and her warm empathy for her protagonists will capture historical fiction fans and readers who enjoyed Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent." —Library Journal

“By definition, novels set in Venice must exude atmosphere, and this one positively drips with it. …Rich capably depicts the strength of women and the precariousness of their lives.” —The Globe and Mail (Canada)

The Midwife of Venice is one of the best novels to be written in the genre of historical fiction since The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” —

"An engrossing, well-written, and fast-paced story about a fascinating period in history. The descriptions of sixteenth century Venice were so vivid, they were almost tangible." (Joy Fielding, New York Times bestselling author of Charley's Web)

"A compelling and engaging novel, a well-researched high-stakes drama written with elegance and compassion: fascinating!" (Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun)

"A meticulously researched page-turner that evokes renaissance Venice with remarkable clarity, radiance, and vigour." (William Deverell, author of Mind Games)

"Not only did Roberta Rich transport me to sixteenth-century Venice, with its seductive tapestry of smells, sights, textures and beliefs, she involved me in a poignant story of seasoned love. I don't know which I admired more--the wonderfully realized setting or the suspenseful story of Hannah and Isaac." (Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History)

"A beautifully conceived debut novel... A finely drawn plot with well-developed characters to
whom the reader feels a deep connection. Historical fact is well preserved in the fictional story, and it seems clear that Rich herself feels an abiding connection with that story and her characters. The pages fly by as we too connect deeply with Hannah and Isaac. A highly recommended novel." (Historical Novel Society)

About the Author

Roberta Rich divides her time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Colima, Mexico. This is her first novel.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451657471
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451657470
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (413 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author of the internationally bestselling THE MIDWIFE OF VENICE. Writers of a certain vintage always seem to boast of the variety of interesting jobs they held before settling down to write. Jobs like fire breather on the Reforma in Mexico City, or turkey plucker. I have not done anything so exotic. Moving from present to past, I have been: a divorce lawyer, student, waitress, nurses' aide, hospital admitting clerk, factory assembly line worker and child.

I live in Vancouver, B.C. and in Colima, Mexico. I have one husband, one daughter, three step-children, a German Shepherd, tropical fish and many over sexed parakeets. When in Mexico, I nurture my husband, and my vanilla vines. When in Vancouver I try to keep dry.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Luanne Ollivier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Midwife of Venice is Roberta Rich's debut novel. And it's one I wouldn't have discovered on my own - so, thanks Jessica for the great recommendation!

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.

**Congratulations to Roberta Rich - The Midwife of Venice is #8 on the Globe and Mail hardcover bestseller list!**
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Jane Greensmith on May 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have been eagerly anticipating reading Roberta Rich's The Midwife of Venice for months now, being completely enthralled by Venice at the moment and eager to explore it in fiction as well as non-fiction.

I enjoyed the book and found the two main characters, wife and husband, Hannah and Isaac Levi, and their story interesting. I definitely liked how Rich incorporated 16th century Venetian and Jewish terms info their narrative, and the glossary at the end was helpful but not really necessary as she did a good job of explaining terms in context.

However, this was a quick read. In fact, that's my issue with the book and why I gave it only 3 stars on my GoodReads review. The novel is too short for the story that Rich wants to tell. With the exception of only a few scenes, it reads mostly as a detailed synopsis rather than a rich, deeply layered, complex story of a different world.

Hannah is a midwife, but we only see her deliver one baby. She is a lifelong resident of the Jewish ghetto in Venice, but we only see her interact with one person from the ghetto, her rabbi. Her scenes with her estranged sister, Jessica, are told with breakneck speed, and there's no time to get to know Jessica as we attempt to understand what drove her to live as she did. I'm not a particularly skeptical reader--I tend to believe what a narrator tells me about a character--but I can't get to know, love, empathize, and relate to a character when I don't see them and hear them but am only told about them.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Julia Madeleine on April 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
Had I seen this book on a shelf in Chapters my eyes would certainly have drifted over it, I wouldn't have even given it a second glance. Historical fiction isn't something I've ever sought out. The title especially wouldn't have interested me. But I have to say, I'm so glad I had the opportunity to read The Midwife Of Venice.

The novel is set in 16th century Venice where the main character, Hannah Levi, is a midwife living in the Jewish ghetto. Her husband is a merchant who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Malta. One night a Christian Count comes to Hannah desperate for her to assist his wife who is in a difficult labour. But a Jewish woman helping deliver a Christian baby is against the law and not only would it put her entire community at risk, it's a crime punishable by torture and death. But with a large sum of money offered to her for her efforts, enough to buy her husband's freedom, Hannah decides to risk everything for the man she loves.

The Midwife Of Venice, is more than just a slice of life novel from the past, it's a fast-paced suspense story that's not only beautifully written, but a genuine page-turner.
Roberta Rich has created a fierce heroine in Hannah Levi, whose character leaps off the page. The descriptions of life in the 16th century are so vivid and rich in detail I found myself getting lost in the landscape depicted before me. The brutality of that time period, and the sensation of life and death always hanging in the balance throughout the story is compelling. The only thing about this book that I found disappointing was the fact that it wasn't twice as long, because it certainly felt epic. Highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Paula C. Aird on May 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
An interesting story taking place in Venice and Malta in 1575. Discrimination against Jews at that time was highly reminescent of the treatment of African slaves shortly thereafter. These talents were well honed by that time.
While I found the story interesting, some parts didn't make sense to me. Why did the Conte and Lucia leave the newborn Matteo behind to visit Lucia's sick father? Then that scene with Niccolo trying to kill Baby Matteo was strange. Why did Hannah give the knife back to Niccolo? Sometimes I thought the scenes needed more work but othertimes I felt they were much too drawn out. Some parts defied logic (to me). However, it was educational, entertaining and I definitely loved the ending, which for me was a huge plus.
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