Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Midwife of Venice, Roberta Rich

Roberta Rich says the story came to her on a trip to Venice, when visiting the Jewish ghettos she imagined life of the Jewish families arriving from Northern Europe, Spain and Portugal, and settling in these neighborhoods in the 16th century.   Hannah Levi, her protagonist, lives in the ghetto.  She is a mid-wife, married, barren, and known to deliver babies by witch craft. The witch craft refers to her birthing spoons, she invented by hinging two spoons in the center, and practiced delivery with them, by pulling an onion out of a chicken belly.  Her reputation has spread to the Christian neighborhood. 
The desperate Conte Padovani needs a heir to stay in charge of his estate, and to keep it safe from being blown by his younger brothers.  His pregnant wife has been in labor for two straight days, has lost a lot of blood, but there is no sign of the baby yet.  The Conte comes to Hanna hoping that she agrees to help deliver his baby despite it being against law for Jew to deliver a Christian baby.  What will Hannah do?  Hanna has a lot at the stake.  She has to consider the people living in the ghetto.  If she can't deliver the baby or if something happens to the baby or the mother, she along with the rest of her people will suffer from the consequence of breaking the law.  At the same time, and only recently her husband's on board a ship was attacked and captured by the Knights of Malta.  He is now in their custody and sold to one of merchants of the island as a slave.  She needs money to buy Issac's freedom.  

This book is an easy, entertaining read. 

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