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The Birth House: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – October 9, 2007
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Canadian radiojournalist McKay was unable to ferret out the life story of late midwife Rebecca Steele, who operated a Nova Scotia birthing center out of McKay's Bay of Fundy house in the early 20th century; the result of her unsatisfied curiousity is this debut novel. McKay writes in the voice of shipbuilder's daughter, Dora Rare, "the only daughter in five generations of Rares," who as a girl befriends the elderly and estranged Marie Babineau, long the local midwife (or traiteur), who claims to have marked Dora out from birth as her successor. After initial reluctance and increasingly intensive training, 17-year-old Dora moves in with Marie; on the eve of Dora's marriage to Archer Bigelow, Marie disappears, leaving Dora her practice. A difficult marriage, many difficult births, a patient's baby thrust on her to raise without warning and other crises (including WWI and the introduction of "clinical" birthing methods) ensue. Period advertisments, journal entries and letters to and from various characters give Dora's voice context. The book is more about the texture of Dora's life than plot, and McKay handles the proceedings with winning, unsentimental care. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
When Dr. Gilbert Thomas, self-proclaimed expert in hygienic, pain-free childbirth, opens a practice in a Nova Scotia coastal village during the World War I years, it sets the stage for a classic conflict between long-held traditions and modern medicine. Seventeen-year-old Dora Rare, the only Rare daughter within five generations, improves her lot in life by becoming the apprentice of Marie Babineau, the independent but caring Acadian midwife who helped bring several generations of Scots Bay residents into the world. The women of the village (not to mention their husbands) grow bitterly divided when Dr. Thomas calls the health and safety of expectant mothers into question. His vengeful actions toward Dora herself--a young woman looking for guidance with her own love life--turn particularly personal as well. McKay has fashioned what she terms a "literary scrapbook," reproducing and re-creating historical news clippings, advertisements, and letters within the text. This sensitively written novel of women's birthing rituals, strengths, and friendships will appeal to readers who enjoy gentle humor and plenty of homespun wisdom. Sarah Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Dora marries and lives on Spider Hill in a house provided by her mother-in-law. Alas, she doesn’t have a “happily ever after” life with the uncouth and philandering Archer. Nor does she endear herself to the new doctor in town, an obstetrician bent on using modern medical techniques in childbirth. Because of certain circumstances, Dora leaves Scots Bay in fear for her life and hides in Boston with one of her brothers and his friends.
The author includes a quote by George Sand that somewhat sums up the courage and new way of thinking shown by Dora. “I ask the support of no one, neither to kill someone for me, gather a bouquet, correct a proof, nor go with me to the theatre. I go there on my own, as a man, by choice and when I want flowers, I go on foot, by myself to the Alps.”
I enjoyed the novel and wish it hadn’t ended so abruptly. Reading it has given me e a different look at midwifery and sisterhood. Women of all ages, social classes, eras have more in common than not.
I liked how the author really drew the readers into the novel. It became more than just words on a page. You actually felt like you were there in the story, living just as Dora Rare and feeling every single thing she felt. You felt her pain, you felt her love and you felt her strength. But, overall, for me, the main character did seem a bit flat and dull to me at times. Several other characters were pretty one dimensional, the doctor being one of them. He was strictly the bad guy, never a single good quality about it. He seemed dull and lifeless sort of speak. He's focused on trying to gather up as many pregnant women as possible and trying to make a quick buck by having their husbands pressure the young ladies into going to the hospital to deliver.
A lot of it sounds like historical fiction than anything for me. She didn't go into too much detail about "modern" medicine that was available back then, and just mentioned one scene in which she somewhat described what a laboring woman was going through. I was more curious about what exactly were the practices back then for OB doctors and while I had a question or two somewhat answered, we never really see much else beyond the battle between midwives and the doctors.
Overall, for it being debut novel, it was decent. I wish the author had fleshed the characters out more, double checking to make sure that they were just the normal, flat and dull one dimensional characters and making extra sure to flesh out the plot and make it something that readers won't forget. But, overall the story was enjoyable for me and did make me curious about how things changed from back then to nowadays where midwives are treated like they are. It's an engaging read and it is worth your money if you are interested in these kinds of topics.