Monday, January 5, 2009

The Midwife's Apprentice

Author: Karen Cushman

First line: When animal droppings and garbage and spoiled straw are piles up in a great heap, the rotting and moiling give forth heat.

Why you should read this book: From a worthless, unwanted beggar sleeping in a dung heap, Beetle takes the slow journey to self-actualization through the questionable charity of Jane the Midwife, a cold but fair practitioner of the birthing arts. Renaming herself Alyce, she struggles with her own fears of failure and sense of worthlessness, more than once rendered helpless in situations where her knowledge might triumph, were it backed by self-esteem. Beautifully written and beautifully researched, this book creates a realistic slice of medieval life from the perspective of the lowest rung on the ladder.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are horrified even picturing a girl who has never in her life bathed or washed her hands assisting at a birth.

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