Set in Nova Scotia at the time of the First World War, this is the story of a young woman constrained by her narrow society, who yet manages to discover the wider world. Dora Rare, the first girl to be born in five generations of her family, befriends an outsider, Miss Babineau, who is the local wise woman and midwife. Miss B teaches Dora traditional ways in which women can have choices over their reproductive lives. The book clearly demonstrates the conflicts between women’s traditions and the new ideas of medicalised childbirth. The author employs a number of different techniques which lend authenticity to the story. The medical use of vibrators to cure ‘hysteria’ was surprising, yet historically true.
Reading this led our book group into interesting discussions of personal childbirth experiences and the kinds of myths that surround pregnancy. Some enjoyed the book, some found it tedious. Personally I loved the explicit feminism and the supportive solidarity of the ‘Occasional Knitters’ Group’.
“This book is full of women’s lore
with birth and healing at its core.”