Whether or not Mr Thomas knows that it takes a village to raise a child, he knows for certain that it takes a village to successfully animate an historical mystery. That "village" is the city of York, England in the 17th Century; home to an uppity woman by the name of Lady Bridget Hodgson. And animate it - and her - he does in his new novel The Midwife's Tale
"The river always had a stink about it, but the moat [around the gaol where Esther is imprisoned] was truly noxious, for the soldiers used it to dispose of their waste. I made the mistake of looking down and saw the corpse of a large dog, half-submerged in the water."
In the opening pages of chapter one Bridget, a midwife, encounters throngs of frightened townspeople "racing home, carrying whatever food they had found for sale in the shops or markets." Right away we begin...
Beyond the Book
Hieroglyphics and even cave drawings testify to the fact that from time immemorial women in the throes of bringing forth the next generation have been tended by other women - either trained in the art of delivery or not. From the book of Genesis when Rachel's midwife predicted that she would bear a son (35-17) to Exodus where midwifery was endorsed by no less than God himself (1-20) midwives have enjoyed the privilege of great power. Albeit in a womanly way. What some might call stealth rebellion. Indeed it was midwives...