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The Midwife of Venice Paperback – February 14, 2012
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This story is basically one of 21st century characters set on a 16th century background. The dramatic tension consists of stereotyped antisemitism and 21st century feminism. None of the characters or the plot ring true for the time period. In fact the author admits in the after-notes that she was unable to find any historical evidence of Jewish midwives in Venice during the 16th century. Nor was she able to find any evidence of Jewish women being involved with Christian births.
Venice consists of many islands. It is disingenuous to imply that the Jews were singled out by being isolated on an island. Everyone lived isolated on an island. In fact Venice in the 16th century was a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution in Spain, France and Byzantium. They were welcomed and treated well. That does not mean there were not people who objected to Jews living there, but to portray 16th Century Venice as a hotbed of antisemitism is not accurate.. The practice of religious and cultural segregation has a long mostly unhappy history for everyone involved Jews, Christians and Muslims.
This book is roughly 300 plus pages so on first glance it appears to be a thin novel. It is really two long short stories (about 150 pages each) that are totally unrelated except for the the characters being married. This allows them to meet in the last chapter and is the only time the stories are tied together. This technique for padding weak or poorly plotted stories is becoming increasingly frequent. I do not like this trend.
The writing itself and plot is very good with the exception of the ending. Maybe there is a sequel in the works which might answer for this type of ending.
I enjoyed the background on the Jewish ghetto in Venice and the discrimination its inhabitants faced. It is not a topic I have heard or read a lot about, so it was interesting to learn about it. Many of the reviews I read said the history and some of the language isn't accurate, but I think it's important to remember that it is a work of fiction. The book is well-written and flows well between Hannah and her husband's story. It was a little slow to start, but picked up the pace especially towards the end. Overall, it was an enjoyable read.