Taking place during the first World War, this book brings to light the hardship women had face before women's suffrage. The women of a small mountain town in Nova Scotia are used to home births by a kindly wise midwife and they would not have it any other way until challenged by a new doctor in town, who deems it unsafe and basically stupid to not want a hospital birth, where the mother is sedated, barely remembering the event at all. Dora, at first a young girl at the start of this novel is at the heart of this struggle, as she takes the lead role as midwife after a tragedy occurs. I really liked this book and although it took a bit to capture my attention, once it did I could not put it down.
This book was just fantastic-one of the best I've read all year! Highly recommend it. I felt like I was reading music and magic. Includes many interesting historical events of that time period and tells a great story at the same time. Dr. Thomas will drive you nuts, but you will fall in love with Marie B.! If you have or get this paperback copy, make sure you read the PS section. The author interview was just as intersting as the story!
I really enjoyed this first novel by Ami Mckay. It's both fiction and non-fiction and I found myself quite interested in both Dora's story and in the medical treatment of women in the early 1900's. I look forward to more novels from this author.
I really enjoyed this book, as it gave me a glimpse into the way things were for women in a patriarchal society. I loved the "old" wisdom from Marie B. and thought the historical facts woven in throughout the story to be very interesting- the Halifax explosion, and the commonplace diagnosis of hysteria for any "female" issues...Dora Rare was a rare woman indeed, I'm sure the pun was intended! There are many benefits to midwives, as there are benefits to modern birth centers, but IMHO it usually depends on the situation and what people are comfortable with. At this time in history, the doctor is made out to be the 'evil' one bringing about unwanted change, versus the female domain of baby-catching in order to gain sympathy for Dora and Marie B. I loved the old wives' tales and the witchy parts described in the book, they were some things in there that my own grandmother (from New Orleans) used to teach me when I was young!
This book was EXCELLENT. It was a great story. Dora is such a strong character and the culture and history surrounding her is so rich in tradition. I was very much interested in how medicine had evolved to a so-called 'science' so much so that the verses and routine of midwivery at the time were completely discounted although they were tried and true practice. Miss B, Dora's teacher of sorts in a fascinating character that brings mysticism and spirituality to her work in a way that might be seen as unsettling, but reveals characters that were often seen as outcasts in history unless their 'expertise' was needed.
I could go on and on about this historical novel. It was definitely one of the best reads I've had all year...;)
This is a story about the women of Nova Scotia, their superstitions, long held beliefs, difficult lives and deep dark secrets. Interwoven into the story is a lesson on those who have and those who have not. Dora Rare strikes out on her own and goes against what her parents want for her and finds her own path in life becoming the town's midwife. Her path isnt without controversy as she struggles to do what is right for the town's women and their babies. "The Birth House" is a great story about women, pregnancy, birth and a peak into how things used to be. Definately worth reading!
Great book on women and their sexuality in WWII era Nova Scotia. Fast reading with a great message that resounds today, giving birth is a sacred event. Midwife care should be the norm for healthy women as our bodies generally know what to do. Highly trained physicians are wonderful for the problems that may arise and the two should work in harmony! Thank GOD they have come a long way since the poor OB care and medical beliefs of "Dr. Thomas" in the book!
Well-written, engaging book from first to last. The themes of inherent and inherited knowledge of the midwife was a realistic look at what really may have happened in the dark spaces of the past. This is basically historical fiction, but well done.
If I had any complaints it was that I began to "see" the research through the writing--the World War I, Halifax explosion, influx of "modern" doctors into delivery of children, inventions of the time, etc.
A great read--I read it straight through--and an enlightening look at the past and at Nova Scotia history.
I found this book really easy to get into. I love historical fiction especially set in the turn of the century when women were fighting for their rights to vote and the ability to make choices regarding their own bodies.
The Birth House covers a variety of women's issues from the turn of the century. When you read this book you have to forget everything you know and put yourself into the mindset of a woman from the turn of the century living in a rural tight knit community.
I was quite disappointed in this book after waiting so long to read it, and al the rave reviews about it.... I've read a lot about Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and mid wifery, but the protagonist here was totally unbelievable to me. It was more like the author took a modern woman and placed her back in time a century ago. I found it to be rather shallow. Sorry, realy wanted to like it.
Dora Rare makes this story compelling. Reaching out from the cold hard winters of Nova Scotia, in the times of woman's sufferage, this coming of age novel grabs you from the beginning, makes you feel what this young woman of 17 feels on her wedding day, the skills she learns as a midwife and as a fugitive from men. You cannot but hope that this story helps other young women, and older women for that, understand that to accept some hardships in your life for the greater good, is what it's all about.
Ami McKay has bathed this young woman in a beautiful light, we would be good to remember that it wasn't so long ago that women had to hide from men for fear of persecution. Although a work of fiction, this book resonates with me and the recent turning from "modern" to more home births.
I was disappointed in this book after reading all the rave reviews. I finally finished it after quite a few restarts. It was very anti modern medicine and very pro feminism. A bit too much between vibrators and how happy prostitutes can be because they're in charge of their bodies! I'm all for strong female characters, but this seemed to come at the expense of men and traditional values. A slow read.
Let me say I loved this book, the characters, the plot, everything! I could not put this book down! It moves, it creates, you envision! This is what I read for, is to intake stories like this! Girl power, family bonds, friendship. I hated parting with it, but I wanted to give another person the chance to experience this wonderful writing.
This book set in the early 1900s in Scots Bay, Canada and Boston depicts the historic and current struggles of women to gain rights over our own bodies and lives. Dora Rare is first an apprentice to then the midwife for Scots Bay. She must face violence, death, injustices, and the threat of world war in her struggle to protect not only herself but the women all around her. This book particularly eloquently depicts the injustice of the medical community labeling just anger as an illness through the labeling of the main character as having hysteria. An excellent book and a must-read for women everywhere, as well as men sympathetic to the cause of women's rights.
The old midwives ways versus new birthing technologies in 1918 Nova Scotia. Potions and love, groaning cake recipe and the know how passed from from an old Midwife to a younger midwife in "learning". The bonding of ladies, husbands and life as it takes place with explosions, war and a molasses overflow.
So much feeling went into this book - it's not just a story of birthing babies, it's a woman's story of how life begins and the groans of giving birth.
Such a touching story and well written. Fortunately I have two copies of this book and I must keep one to treasure for another read!