There’s been a lot of buzz about Roberta Rich and her debut novel, “The Midwife of Venice” and after spending the weekend reading it, I can see why there is so much hype! It read so well that I couldn’t put the book down, because I had to know what was going to happen to the two main characters, married couple Hannah and Issac. Set in sixteenth century Venice, we’re first introduced to Hannah, a young Jewish woman living in the ghetto of Venice where Jewish people reside. She hears some commotion outside her dark and dreary home one evening and then a bang on her door. She opens the door to find her Rabbi and two Christian men. She’s taken back, because Christians and Jewish individuals do not mingle, let alone show up on doorsteps in the middle of the night. However, the two men are desperate for Hannah’s help, as they’ve been informed that she is the best midwife in all of Venice and they beg her to help them assist the Conte’s wife, the Contessa (Lucia). She is well aware that it is against the law for her to participate in this act, but the Conte standing in front of has such desperation in his eyes, that Hannah agrees to participate on one condition, that he pay her two hundred ducats. She’s as desperate for help as the Conte to have her husband, Issac, who is being held as a slave by the Knights of Jerusalem in Malta. They verbally agree, much to the disappointment of her Rabbi, but she’s willing to go to whatever means to save her beloved husband.
The transaction I’ve just discussed happens in the first nineteen pages of the book and it only gets better and better as the story progresses. The narrative switches back and forth between Hannah and Issac, who have such a devotion to one another that it’s as much a romance novel, as it is a historical fiction novel. Issac, who decided to travel to Malta to gain “wealth and prosperity” for their family early on faces trials and tribulations because of religion. His struggles are described in great detail, but his strength and realisance helps him to push aside the cruel acts happening to him and help him stay true to being Jewish and fight harder to survive so he can be reunited with his wife.
Both Hannah and Issac face many obstacles throughout the novel, not knowing if the other is well or even alive. Their stories are parallel, yet somehow they appear to be on the same page throughout the whole story. It’s filled with suspensful nail biting moments that made me cringe and moments that made me swoon in delight. I was blown away with the fantastic writing and the concept as a whole, Roberta Rich has a definate talent and I strongly urge each and everyone of you to pick up this book and book a Sunday off to read the whole thing in one sitting. It’ll be well worth it!