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Publisher's Summary

When twenty-two-year-old Jennifer Worth, from a comfortable middle-class upbringing, went to work as a midwife in the direst section of postwar London, she not only delivered hundreds of babies and touched many lives, she also became the neighborhood';s most vivid chronicler. Woven into the ongoing tales of her life in the East End are the true stories of the people Worth met who grew up in the dreaded workhouse, a Dickensian institution that limped on into the middle of the twentieth century.

Though these are stories of unimaginable hardship, what shines through each is the resilience of the human spirit and the strength, courage, and humor of people determined to build a future for themselves against the odds. This is an enduring work of literary nonfiction, at once a warmhearted coming-of-age story and a startling look at people's lives in the poorest section of postwar London.

©2005 Jennifer Worth (P)2014 HighBridge Company

What listeners say about Shadows of the Workhouse

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  • Overall
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Different Style from Book 1, but Still Great

I really enjoyed Call the Midwife, Book 1, so I purchased this second book. Where the first book was very much about the author's life as a midwife, this second book is more about the people she encounters with entire chapters devoted to specific people or families.

As I started the audiobook, I was briefly disappointed since I was expecting more of a continuation of the first book, but I very soon changed my mind as I listened to these compelling stories of the people Jenny Lee encountered. Some of these stories were touched on in the first book, and you get just enough of a reminder about them to make that connection without feeling like you're hearing the same story again.

I went on to listen to Book 3, and it is also a winner. The same narrator reads all three books, and her voice and style are very enjoyable.

4 people found this helpful

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Hard to hear the harsh and graphic reality of how and what people had to do to survive.

I was shocked by some of what I heard. It was good that those section were interspersed with less graphic accounts. It helped that it was read by a kind female voice. The violence and cruelty will stay with me for a long time.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

This is the second book I've listened to in this series. The narrator sounds just like Jenny from the show just as many of the other characters do. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who's interested in the history of England. Even if you don't watch Call the Midwife which is based on these books, I would still recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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a good sequel

it is a very good book although I do find that the first book was better this was an excellent book would definitely listen to again really pulls on your heartstrings

1 person found this helpful

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  • GANC Line
  • 2017-06-01

Back stories, but no birth stories

I have enjoyed Jennifer Worth's books and the "Call the Midwife" TV adaptation. One thing I say jokingly about the TV show is that at some point in each episode, a woman will be screaming in pain as she has a baby. This book has none of that. There are three main stories in this book. First she tells some tragic accounts of people she encountered at Nonatas House who had been orphaned and raised in workhouses. Second, there's the story of Sister Monica Joan and her arrest and trial for shoplifting. The third story concerns an elderly Boer War veteran whom Jenny befriended. The underlying themes are about poverty and isolation and how enlightened people regard the people affected by them.

8 people found this helpful

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  • HODGEPODGESPV
  • 2015-07-14

If you like the PBS series

you will this as well as it sort of fills out the series! So enjoy!

8 people found this helpful

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  • Jan
  • 2014-02-20

Nice followup to "Call The Midwife"

"Call The Midwife" was my favorite book of last year. Although the next two books both stand alone, I would strongly suggest reading it first. Shadows of the Workhouse focuses less on the work of the midwives, rather on the experiences of older neighbors, nuns and patients who either lived in or were strongly effected by the workhouse (poorhouses). You get a vivid insight to the system that damaged families and left many who were still alive in the 1950's scarred by their experiences. I really enjoyed this book: it is tender, humorous, heartbreaking and makes history real. I do genealogy and have found several family members who lived and died in the poorhouses, so it was very personal to me. There remains a James Herriot feel to the books which consists of multiple short stories flowing together around the theme. Sister Monica Joan continues to steal the show with her antics, the book is worth the credit to see her arrested and in court for stealing jewelry. I didn't realize this is now a popular series in Britain by the BBC, you can view it on Netflix.

23 people found this helpful

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  • I buy too much!
  • 2016-06-30

Unfair comparison vs. Book 1 (?)

Loved EVERYTHING about Book 1... probably among my top 5 ever. Nicola Barber raises reading to a true performance art. This one has fewer and deeper stories and therefore seemed to move more slowly for me. Have I already proclaimed my love for the voice (s) of Nicola Barber? This book is a "4". (Book 1 was a "5++"!) Nicola's reading raises the e-book version a full point.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kathy
  • 2016-05-14

A bittersweet look at the Nurses and Nuns who helped the poorest of London after WW II with medical knowledge, compassion and lo

Great book that gives more detail than the PBS show. If you enjoyed the series, you'll love the audible books. Very gritty at times but overall a tribute to true "healers" who follow their calling to help those most in need. Mostly with medical help, but with a strong dose of psychology when needed. A wonderful group of women.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Caitlin
  • 2019-09-10

Definitely a departure from the first book.

I wish I had read the other reviews more closely. There is no midwifery in this book but bleak illustration of work house life. I didn’t like the way stories were put together - if this had been a book, I’d have put it down in the first section. It’s beautifully narration is the same as first book. These are important stories to be told but hard to hear.

1 person found this helpful

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  • invisible_anne
  • 2019-04-08

Dickensonian Historic Account

Gripping backstory to the popular television series. Sometimes appalling, sometimes humorous, always warmly human. Wonderfully and tenderly narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mr. Dwayne B.
  • 2018-05-30

An easy book to listen to

I really liked the show and so I began listening to the books. There is a bit of repeating of the first book but certainly plenty enough that's new to be able to enjoy it. I'm very fascinated by the poverty and workhouse systems which England endured in its past so I appreciate real life stories of people who experienced this. I definitely cryed at some parts of the book, so keep your tissues handy.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sharey
  • 2018-02-20

Fantastic

Best books and television series ever! I am just sad there are only 3 books to enjoy. Narration is excellent as well!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nurse Mom
  • 2016-02-22

informative and heart warming

As a nurse I find this author's ability to vividly share the stories (even though tragic as they may have been) through the eyes of her patients compelling and heart warming. Wonderful and captivating, the way she has shared history through storytelling. Also, the reader's accent and voice alterations made it that much more enjoyable. I especially enjoyed her version of the Cockney dialect. Looking forward to listening to the third and final book in this series.

1 person found this helpful