Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers-- a gift aided by the secret " birthing spoons" she designed. But when a count implores her to attend to his wife, who has been laboring for days to give birth to their firstborn son, Hannah is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but the payment he offers is enough to ransom her beloved husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can Hannah refuse her duty to a suffering woman? Hannah' s choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the baby and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life. Not since The Red Tent or People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history.
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"It was hard being a woman, and even harder being a Jew, in sixteenth-century Venice. Antoinette LaVecchia's strong performance details the grim realities of ghetto life, childbirth, superstition, and the rampant religious persecution of the period. Hannah Levi, the best midwife in Venice, has invented "birthing spoons"--an early version of forceps--considered instruments of the devil by the Christian world. When a nobleman offers her an enormous amount of money to help his wife who is in the throes of a difficult labor, Hannah agrees, willing to violate a Papal edict so she can buy the freedom of her husband, Isaac, a slave in Malta. LaVecchia fully develops both Hannah's and Isaac's adventures, enhancing the melodramatic plot, which relies heavily on coincidence and happenstance. S.J.H. (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine"
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