Title: Call the Midwife (also called The Midwife)
Author: Jennifer Worth
Page Count: 340 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Tone: Reflective, Warm
Reflects on the experiences of Jennifer Worth as a midwife in London’s postwar East End, including the nuns from whom she learned her craft and the interesting and challenging births she aided during her career.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
1. Do you believe this book is adequately described as a career/work memoir or is it more than that?
2. What else did you learn about beyond midwifery in post-WW II England? (What did you learn that you weren’t expecting to?) Was the book what you expected?
3. Beyond childbirth and midwifery, what are the dominant themes in the book?
4. One of the challenges of writing a memoir is deciding what to include and what to leave out. Do you imagine Jennifer Worth had any difficulty making these decisions when writing her memoir? (Note: She continued and wrote two additional books; The Midwife is considered first in a trilogy.)
5. According to an article on Slate (11-1-2012), the character of Chummy was created by Worth (Worth’s daughters insist she was real) – she was not based on an actual person she knew in that time. How do you feel about the existence of fictional elements in a non-fiction book? Does it affect your enjoyment of the book?
6. Worth’s ability to connect with people is somewhat restrained – she mentions several times holding back and resisting getting too drawn into someone’s personal situation. What do you think of her preference to keep a distance? Do you think this was a professional stance, or more of a reflection of her personality?
7. How do you think this distance/reserve affected her ability to write a book such as this? Is it a strength or a weakness?
8. Can you recall which anecdotes or deliveries affected her despite her efforts to not be emotional?
9. Which mother/baby moments or deliveries did you find most memorable? Did they all contribute equally to the book? Were there any stories that should have been left out?
10. What about the men in the book? Who stands out in your mind? Are there any generalizations that could be made about how men are portrayed?
11. Which nuns at Nonnatus House did you find most interesting?
12. What was her purpose in writing her memoirs? Who do you think Worth’s intended audience was?
13. If you are a parent or not, would this affect your enjoyment or appreciation of the book? What about if you like history or not?
14. Have you seen the BBC series based on this book (and other two books)? How does it compare to the book?
15. Would you say there are differences between the book and the TV show? If so, how are they different? Does one enrich the other?
16. What do you think about the level of detail in some of the deliveries? Was it necessary? Does it give you a richer understanding of this line of work?
17. Thinking about the subject matter and the time period / setting, would you say this was an easy or difficult book to read?
18. The book’s subtitle is “a memoir of birth, joy, and hard times.” Was there a balance between challenging stories and more joyous circumstances? Would you say the book had an overall tone / mood to it, or is it hard to say?
19. How has life changed for women since the time period captured in this book? Have prenatal care and obstetrics changed?
20. What things do you think have stayed the same? Despite the specific setting and time period, is there a timeless appeal to this book?
21. Are you interested in reading her two additional books? Is one enough? If you haven’t watched the series yet, do you think you will?
22. How would you describe her writing style? Do you feel aware of the fact that she wasn’t a professional writer?
23. Is there anything that we can learn from her work as a midwife? If so, what is it and why is it important?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
Reading group guide from the publisher
Discussion questions and responses from blog, Project Motherhood
PBS music playlist for Call the Midwife
Video interview with Jennifer Worth on her life
Radio Times article: Jennifer Worth’s daughter on their mother