Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Blue Cotton Gown ~ by Patricia Harman, 2008

Patricia Harman, author of The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir (2008), obviously cares about her patients, and she thinks women need to be kinder to themselves.
"Women don't do enough nice things for themselves," she writes (p. 94).  "They give to their kids, their husbands, their parents and families.  Sometimes they volunteer in the community or at church, but they rarely give to themselves."
The work of a midwife is not easy.  Harman and her husband, a surgeon, opened a health clinic in West Virginia.  While they struggle to keep the clinic solvent, with the rising cost of malpractice insurance and her own medical problems, she always keeps her patients uppermost in her mind -- and they share all sorts of concerns with her.  Rated:  7/10.

As I read The Blue Cotton Gown, I was reminded of other books I've read about midwives.

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian is a 1998 novel about Sybil Danforth, an experienced midwife on trial for an illegal operation to save a healthy baby boy.  The midwife says the mother had died, but the prosecution claims the woman was still alive.  The story is narrated by the midwife's 14-year-old daughter.
"Throughout the long summer before my mother's trial began, and then during those crisp days in the fall when her life was paraded publicly before the county -- her character lynched, her wisdom impugned -- I overheard much more than my parents realized, and I understood more than they would have liked."
This midwife did not work with a surgeon/husband, as Harman did (above), so a question arises about the medical profession:
"The whole idea that a midwife can do what they do -- and do it better -- drives some of them crazy, and so they're persecuting my client" (p. 232).
Why didn't the midwife get the woman to a doctor?  Were the roads too icy on that winter night in rural Vermont?  What really happened?  Rated:  8/10.

The Witch of Cologne by Tobsha Learner is a 2003 novel (published in 2005 in the United States) takes us back several centuries to a woman who is learned in a time when women are not supposed to be knowledgeable.  It can get a woman in trouble.  This book does not focus solely on what Ruth bas Elazar Saul, daughter of the city's chief rabbi, does when she delivers babies.  But that's where the problems started.  Ruth runs afoul of the Spanish Inquisition for using new lifesaving methods and is labeled a witch.
“I have learned that perception is very much in the eye of the beholder, Monsignor Solitario. A man will see what he desires. You see a witch where others simply see a very good midwife” (p. 112).
I wrote more about The Witch of Cologne (and women's issues, such as being asked, "Do you type?") exactly three years ago tomorrow.  Rated:  8/10

1 comment:

Helen's Book Blog said...

I've heard of the book Midwives, but didn't realize he wrote it! I've meant to read that book for years