My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Roberta Rich’s The Midwife of Venice was recommended to me by a colleague some time ago. It would seem tastes and expectations vary widely.
Rich tells the story of a Jewish midwife in 15th century Venice, caught in an intrigue which threatens her life.
For the most part the story is well-researched (there were a few hitches over which I stumbled, but I’m critical that way, among others). However, for this reader, the major hitch occurred when the infant the heroine, Hannah, delivers of an aristocratic Christian woman, becomes the major hook on which this story hangs. With the child dead, the two predictable and dissolute brothers-in-law will inherit all. Knowing this, and the proclivities of his brothers, the Conte whisks his lady-wife off to the country shortly after she is delivered, leaving the child behind in the known ambivalent care of the wet-nurse, and in the company of his dastardly uncles.
Given the Conte is presented as an intelligent businessman, and one of the patriarchs of Venice’s senate, and a man who would do anything to ensure the safety and longevity of his newly-born heir (certainly he has paid an astoundingly handsome fee to Hannah to ensure the child’s safe delivery), why would he then abandon the child who ensures his title to the questionable mercies of his uncles?
After that dissolution of belief, the entire novel fell apart for me, leaving me with a somewhat saccharine taste come the happily-ever-after ending.