Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BOOK: The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Birth House by Ami McKay

2nd Canadian Reading Challenge

I liked this as a solid, interesting read. It was a wonderful look at women's lives and their control over their bodies in the early part of this century. Dora Rare begins as a friend of the local midwife, Miss B, and just beginning to feel grown up. Dora has always been a bit different, but being the only girl in a family with six boys could do that to you.

There is lots of folklore here, with the midwifery methods based on herbology and old wives tales (that work). I really liked that part of the book, along with the history of how obstetrics has evolved, and the strength that the women gave each other regardless of the crappy life they had in those day - have babies, cook, clean, be available for the man you married. I found it very empowering how the women stuck together. I also liked the first world war background and the inclusion of the Halifax Explosion of 1917. That would have affected everyone in Nova Scotia, especially a midwife healer like Dora.

It was a bit cliche or predictable at times what with the idiot husbands, the life on the sea, and small town characters, but it was written in a charming way, and Dora was a very sympathetic narrator. The technique of making it like a scrapbook, with newspaper articles, journal entries, and letters was a bit confusing for me at first. Why, if Dora is narrating the story, are her journal entries used to sometimes narrate the action? But that was a little issue and overall was a good, solid novel. I can see why it has been a very popular read.

Some other great reviews: john mutford, chris, joy, kaliana
Leave me a link if you've reviewed this and want to link up.


  1. Really nice review! I plan to read this one for the challenge as well.

  2. I own this but haven't managed to read it yet. Hopefully soon!

  3. I've been wanting to read this too - and I'm considering you Canadians in reading some books from your part of the world, so maybe i'll get to it soon!

  4. I haven't read this one but after your review I'm going to check it out further. I love books set around the first world war--so many things changing.

  5. I'm in the minority of readers that didn't like this one-- as you know, since you linked to my review. Some of the issues you noted towards the end, I guess I didn't forgive as easily.


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