Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse

Jennifer Worth

Unlike the other two Call the Midwife books that I have read, this book tells the life stories of two characters that the author encountered working at Nonnatus House. The first, Jane, is a quiet, fearful young women. She fears her own shadow, and cannot be trusted with any responsibility due to her fear of making a mistake. The other character, Mr Collett, a soldier who fought in the Boer war, begins as a client needing a nurse, and becomes a true friend to the author.

Jane’s story is the story of the workhouse, a horrible institution that punishes people for being poor. Starting out life as bubbly, charming, intelligent little girl, Jane’s spirit is completely broken by the inhumanity of the workhouse system.

The soldier, Mr. Collett starts out as a patient, but moves into the category of friend as his wounds heal. His life story is gradually revealed as her visits become more social than professional.

Both stories reveal the humanity of the people who came into contact with the sisters and nurses of Nonnatus House, until changing economic times forced the end of the East End and the need for the services of Nonnatus House.

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