Summary and book reviews of The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas

The Midwife's Tale

By Sam Thomas

The Midwife's Tale
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Jan 2013,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Dec 2013,
    320 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

It is 1644, and Parliament's armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels' hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget's friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who's far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha's past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city's most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther's murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

Chapter 1

On the night I delivered Mercy Harris of a bastard child, the King's soldiers burned the city's suburbs and fell back within its walls to await the rebel assault.

It was evening when the Overseer of the Poor arrived to summon me to the birth and my servant, Hannah, ushered him into the parlor.

"Lady Hodgson," he said when I joined him, "I am sorry to bother you on such a terrible day, but one of the parish's maidservants is in travail with a bastard. The churchwardens have sent me for a midwife."

"What parish are you from?" I asked. I knew he was not from St. Helen's, and most parishes handled their own bastard births.

"St. Savior's, my lady."

"Surely you have midwives in St. Savior's."

"They are unwilling to venture out, what with the fires, the smoke, and so many soldiers running about. They think it too dangerous."

I shook my head in despair—some women did not know the meaning of an oath. "I will come. What is the mother's name?"

"Mercy ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Bridget is wealthy enough that she doesn't practice midwifery for the money. Why do you think she does it?
  2. Why did Bridget allow Martha to stay in her household, even after she lied about her past?
  3. What similarities and differences do you see between Bridget and her rival, Rebecca Hooke?
  4. Write down one word or phrase to describe Bridget, Martha, and Rebecca Hooke. Then go around the group and read your words aloud. How many different words did you come up with for each character? Once you have done this, elaborate on the complexities, or lack of complexities, of these individuals.
  5. How do you think the loss of her children affected Bridget?
  6. Despite clear evidence of her guilt, Bridget agrees to help Esther. Why?
  7. How did Bridget&...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

The sights, the sounds, the aura of midwifery and the city of York in the midst of rebellion resonate as if part of a chorus that thrums behind the tune of Thomas's charming mystery. The only flaw in this otherwise consonant novel is that we know so little of the characters' backstories. I am hoping there will be more from Thomas and the machinations of the team of Lady Bridget Hodgson and her servant, Martha Hawkins.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review Members Only (1246 words).

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Historian Thomas' fiction debut is packed with fascinating information about a midwife's skills and life during the English civil war. The ingenious, fast-paced mystery is a bonus.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Everything rings true in historian Thomas's superb first mystery, set in 1644 during the English civil war...Authentic details of life in 17th-century York complement the whodunit's intelligently concealed clues.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Thomas' York teems with filthy streets and bawdy wine-soaked revelries. But nothing is more drenched in bloody, breathing realism than Bridget's life, and career. . . . Thomas does an admirable job keeping all of these balls aloft. He concludes with a satisfying twist that few readers will see coming. But as pleasurable as his mystery is, the true thrill here is Thomas' lively portrait of 1644 York and his unique heroine.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Midwifery

Midwives at Nativity sceneHieroglyphics 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 who virtually saved the Hebrew nation when they stood up to the Pharaoh's command to kill the Hebrews' newborn sons. So it can be said that Sam Thomas's Bridget Hodgson comes by her uppity disposition naturally.

From ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Midwife's Tale, try these:

  • Captain Alatriste jacket

    Captain Alatriste

    by Arturo Perez-Reverte

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The first in a new series by the author of The Club Dumas , set in 17th Century Spain. Captain Alatristee earns his living as a swordsman-for-hire, but when he's commissioned to murder two travelers by a member of the Spanish Inquisition he finds himself involved in a plot with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe...

  • Midwives jacket

    Midwives

    by Chris Bohjalian

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Sibyl faces the antagonism of the law, the hostility of traditional doctors, and the accusations of her own conscience. Midwives engages, moves, and transfixes us as only the very best novels ever do.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.