David Kynaston

East End Chronicles

Call the Midwife

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 340pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Family and Kinship in East London

By

Penguin Books 210pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

The publisher’s hype for Call the Midwife does Jennifer Worth few favours. ‘Appeals to the huge market for nostalgia … Jennifer is a natural-born storyteller. She’ll be perfect for publicity … Misery memoir meets a fascinating slice of social history.’ Increasingly convinced that sentimentality is the bane of writing about the recent past, I approached her book with distinct misgivings.

I could hardly have been more wrong. Worth is indeed a natural storyteller – in the best sense of the term, with apparent artlessness in fact concealing high art – and her detailed account of being a midwife in London’s East End during the early 1950s is gripping, moving and convincing from beginning to end. One knows in one’s bones whether one trusts an author, and I felt I could trust her, fortified by passing references to Austen and Trollope. Call the Midwife is apparently the first in a trilogy, and it will be fascinating to see what follows.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter