The Mid­wife of Venice

  • Review
By – December 30, 2011

Han­nah, the hero­ine of this nov­el, is a gift­ed mid­wife who lives in the Jew­ish ghet­to of Venice in 1575. Isaac, her hus­band, was cap­tured at sea while on a busi­ness trip and sent to Mal­ta to be sold into slav­ery. Now he is await­ing ran­som by the Venet­ian Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. Han­nah is paid a secret vis­it by a count, who wants her to help his death­ly ill wife deliv­er their baby. Because of an edict against Jews giv­ing med­ical treat­ment to Chris­tians, Hannah’s rab­bi for­bids her to go; she would risk not only her own life but also the posi­tion of the entire Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty if she helps the count­ess. Han­nah asks the count for an enor­mous sum of mon­ey if she suc­cess­ful­ly deliv­ers the baby, in order to ran­som her hus­band. Although the count is kind to Han­nah, his broth­ers and ser­vants are open­ly hos­tile. Jews are the scape­goats for every­thing that goes wrong for the Chris­tians, and now the plague is return­ing to Venice. Though a tad dra­mat­ic, this tale of adven­ture and hero­ism under dire cir­cum­stances is an enjoy­able read, filled with rich details about this peri­od in Venet­ian history.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

Discussion Questions