Vibrant Historical Tale

“Midwife of Venice” by Roberta Rich is a vibrant tale of 16th century Venice and the trials and tribulations of a Jewish couple living in an era of Christian persecution. Hannah Levi is a much sought after mid-wife who created secret ‘birthing spoons’ to help reluctant babies to be born.  Her husband, Isaac, has been captured and enslaved in Malta.  When a Christian count requests her assistance with his wife’s protracted birth she agrees, even though she knows it is against the law, because she will earn enough to ransom her husband back.  Of course nothing goes as planned and a cascade of events including blackmail, deception, the Black Death and more create a suspenseful tale which was difficult to put down.

Rich alternated the narration of the story between Isaac and Hannah so the reader knows what is happening to both of them.  Isaac is a humorous character and very resourceful. Hannah is strong and determined to get Isaac back.  The depictions of Venice at the time of the plague were quite vivid.  I think the novel could have gone into more depth about life in the ghetto and the ongoing persecutions.  Perhaps Rich was going more for the suspense aspect than the historical one.  It was a good, quick read and worth a look.

Leave a Reply