The Harem Midwife

  • Review
By – May 22, 2014

Han­nah and Isaac Levi have moved to Con­stan­tino­ple to start a new life. Isaac has set up a silk work­shop and Han­nah, the best mid­wife in the area, works with the women in the sultan’s harem. One night, she is sum­moned to the opu­lent palace to exam­ine a poor girl pur­chased for the harem. Zofia is a Jew­ish peas­ant whose fam­i­ly was killed by maraud­ing tribes dur­ing a raid. She longs to return to her vil­lage, though there is noth­ing left there; the sul­tan wants her to pro­duce the male heir that he needs. Han­nah must decide whether or not to help Zofia, a risk to both her life and her source of income. Isaac also has prob­lems with a woman claim­ing to be his sis­ter-in-law. This rich­ly detailed his­tor­i­cal nov­el will intro­duce read­ers to a lit­tle-known world and give them a taste of life in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry. Book clubs will enjoy dis­cussing the social issues raised in the sto­ry as well as the col­or­ful characters.

Relat­ed Content

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions