The Midwife of Venice

The Midwife of Venice

4.0 86
by Roberta Rich

View All Available Formats & Editions

Not since Anna Diamant’s The Red Tent or Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. A “lavishly detailed” (Elle Canada) debut that masterfully captures

See more details below


Not since Anna Diamant’s The Red Tent or Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. A “lavishly detailed” (Elle Canada) debut that masterfully captures sixteenth-century Venice against a dramatic and poetic tale of suspense.

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but his payment is enough to ransom her husband Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can she refuse her duty to a woman who is suffering? Hannah’s choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the child and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life. Told with exceptional skill, The Midwife of Venice brings to life a time and a place cloaked in fascination and mystery and introduces a captivating new talent in historical fiction.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her U.S. debut, Rich successfully captures the seedy side of 16th-century Venice—the Jewish ghetto, the plague, the confluence of religious and legal authority—but stumbles with unevenly rendered main characters. Hannah, a midwife, and Isaac Levi are Venetian Jews. Isaac, a trader, is captured at sea and held for ransom in Malta by the Knights of St. John. Hannah is legally forbidden to treat Christians, but as a healer—and a woman suddenly in need of money—she cannot refuse the request of a high-born Venetian to help his wife give birth. Though she delivers the baby safely, the infant faces mortal danger and Hannah’s involvement deepens, leaving her susceptible to charges of murder and witchcraft. To evade authorities, she must rely on her estranged sister, a courtesan. Meanwhile, Isaac languishes on Malta. His kidnappers sell him as a slave to a nun, who in turn sells him to a brutish peasant. Using his wits to survive (selling his writing skills and helping woo a beautiful woman), he escapes captivity, but his and Hannah’s harrowing efforts to reunite are stymied at every turn. Both characters demonstrate intelligence, but only Isaac comes to full life: his thoughts, feelings, humor, and behavior leap off the page. Agent: Beverly Slopen, the Beverly Slopen Agency. (Apr.)
Joy Fielding
"An engrossing, well-written, and fast-paced story about a fascinating period in history. The descriptions of sixteenth century Venice were so vivid, they were almost tangible."
Sandra Gulland
"A compelling and engaging novel, a well-researched high-stakes drama written with elegance and compassion: fascinating!"
William Deverell
"A meticulously researched page-turner that evokes renaissance Venice with remarkable clarity, radiance, and vigour."
From the Publisher
“Rich skillfully incorporates a wealth of historical detail into her riveting tale of a heroine who won't give up on her marriage.”—Chicago Tribune

"Riveting and compulsively readable,The Midwife of Venice combines fast- paced adventure with richly evocative historical writing." —

“A cliffhanger-strewn debut … breathless historical adventure.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Successfully captures the seedy side of 16-century Venice." — Publishers Weekly

"Rich’s fascinating historical details and her warm empathy for her protagonists will capture historical fiction fans and readers who enjoyed Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent." —Library Journal

“By definition, novels set in Venice must exude atmosphere, and this one positively drips with it. …Rich capably depicts the strength of women and the precariousness of their lives.” —The Globe and Mail (Canada)

The Midwife of Venice is one of the best novels to be written in the genre of historical fiction since The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” —

Katherine Ashenburg
"Not only did Roberta Rich transport me to sixteenth-century Venice, with its seductive tapestry of smells, sights, textures and beliefs, she involved me in a poignant story of seasoned love. I don't know which I admired more—the wonderfully realized setting or the suspenseful story of Hannah and Isaac."
Historical Novel Society
"A beautifully conceived debut novel... A finely drawn plot with well-developed characters to
whom the reader feels a deep connection. Historical fact is well preserved in the fictional story, and it seems clear that Rich herself feels an abiding connection with that story and her characters. The pages fly by as we too connect deeply with Hannah and Isaac. A highly recommended novel."
Kirkus Reviews
It's one crisis after another for a 16th-century Italian-Jewish midwife and her merchant husband struggling to be reunited. Religious persecution, sexism, pestilence and murderous, scheming siblings are just a few of the hurdles confronting Hannah Levi and her husband Isaac in Canadian-based Rich's cliffhanger-strewn debut. Key events have happened before the story opens, giving the novel the feel of a sequel: Isaac, who gambled his fortune on a shipment of silk, was captured by mercenaries and is now a slave in Malta; Hannah's sister, a convert to Christianity, is working as a courtesan; and Hannah herself has become "the best midwife in Venice, Christian or Jew," having invented forceps, the use of which risks accusations of witchcraft. When a Christian nobleman implores Hannah to help deliver his son and heir, she does so in defiance of her rabbi in order to raise Isaac's ransom money. The baby is born, but the forceps are stolen by the nobleman's wicked brother from whom she must also rescue the kidnapped child before masquerading as a plague victim to avoid further threats. Meanwhile, in alternate chapters, Isaac is being starved and beaten in Malta where, after multiple plot twists, the story screeches to a breathless halt. Overstuffed is an understatement for this heavily researched but lightweight historical adventure.

Read More

Product Details

Gallery Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >