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Shakespeare

Shakespeare

Written by Bill Bryson

Narrated by Bill Bryson


Shakespeare

Written by Bill Bryson

Narrated by Bill Bryson

ratings:
4/5 (209 ratings)
Length:
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 23, 2007
ISBN:
9780061555343
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself.

Bryson documents the efforts of earlier scholars, from academics to eccentrics. Emulating the style of his famous travelogues, Bryson records episodes in his research, including a visit to a bunker-like basement room in Washington, D.C., where the world's largest collection of First Folios is housed.

Bryson celebrates Shakespeare as a writer of unimaginable talent and enormous inventiveness, a coiner of phrases ("vanish into thin air," "foregone conclusion," "one fell swoop") that even today have common currency. His Shakespeare is like no one else's—the beneficiary of Bryson's genial nature, his engaging skepticism, and a gift for storytelling unrivaled in our time.

Publisher:
Released:
Oct 23, 2007
ISBN:
9780061555343
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Bill Bryson's bestselling books include One Summer, A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home, A Walk in the Woods, Neither Here nor There, Made in America, and The Mother Tongue. He lives in England with his wife.


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What people think about Shakespeare

4.2
209 ratings / 167 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    This is a compelling, thought provoking look at midwifery in the slums of post war London. Reading this affirms my feeling that it's a miracle so many healthy babies have been born over the centuries to mothers who made it through the birth just fine. Some of the book was too graphic for me, but it's easy enough to skip a few pages. Highly recommend.
  • (5/5)
    :) :) :) : )

    Jennifer Worth is the bomb-dot-com. Read it all!
  • (4/5)
    Fascinating stories of birth and women. Only I really disliked the extremely detailed and graphic description of a teenage girl's introduction to a brothel. It was disturbing enough without needing all the details.
  • (4/5)
    Digital audiobook narrated by Nicola Barber. Originally titled: The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times. This was renamed to coincide with the popular television series. And in case you haven’t seen the TV show, the subtitle is really all the synopsis you need.Worth was a 22-year-old young woman, with no particular religious affiliation, who found herself assigned to Nonnatus House, a convent, for her training as a midwife. She got an excellent education, more practical experience than she bargained for, and an appreciation for the spiritual beliefs that helped the sisters cope with the realities of their work. Worth has been criticized for how brutally honest and graphic some of these recollections are. But I was not particularly bothered by this. She was working in an impoverished area of London, in the 1950s. Times were hard, many buildings were still in dilapidated condition following damage sustained in WW2, prostitution was rampant, and tenements were crowded. I felt that the gritty reality of her experiences added to the memoir.She also makes time to show the tenderness of a loving marriage, parents who are devoted to raising their children despite their limited resources, and friends / colleagues on whom one can rely. I think she did a good job of honestly recollecting her experiences during this time frame.The printed book includes a Appendix that addresses the difficulties of “writing the Cockney dialect” and a glossary of terms. These are not included in the audio version.Nicola Barber does a fine job narrating the audiobook. I’m sure that my devotion to the TV series helped, because I clearly pictured the scenes/actresses from the show.
  • (5/5)
    This woman has seen a lot. Being a midwife really gets you in amongst the real lives of people, and it shows with this book. The author went from nursing into midwifery training under the care of Nuns, and even though she wasn't religious, lived in the convent while practicing. 1950s East End London was a poor and rough place but her nurses uniform afforded her respect. Just how poor and crowded the area was shocked me. Most families lived packed into small 2 room places, and it was the norm to have at least 5 or 6 kids. Most families kept clean and tidy homes, but descriptions of some who lived in squalor- piles of human waste indoors, flies, half naked dirty children- astounded me. People couldn't afford to get a doctor for the delivery of a baby, and as mothers grandmothers, aunts and any older woman about could tell you, you didn't really need one. Such was the level of knowledge amongst them all, things were managed at home with the local midwife and GP if needed. Chapter by chapter Worth reveals the personal stories of the people she encountered in the course of her early career. So often, the stories are sad. Families were destroyed upon the early death of the husband/father, and few options were left for a mother trying to support a large brood of kids, and little or no income and no social security. Alcoholism, prostitution, condemned housing tenements. And then stories of loving and supportive families, sober hard-working, proud men who loved and helped their wives in the home- which was so unheard of then. The mixed bag that is humanity. A fantastic social history.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this memoir as I do the PBS series. I appreciated the unflinching look at life among the poor of the East End and the attention given to details about women's roles in England of the 1950s and 1960s.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this memoir into the life of midwife Jenny Lee. She writes with poignant and in depth detail of her cases and her personal life. This book will move you, have you laughing, have you astonished, and at times near tears. I can't wait to read the next book.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting look back to a not-so-distant time when obstetrics and maternity medicine was still in its infancy.
  • (4/5)
    Absolutely charming....and if you are a grammarian, do not miss the Appendix which gives a brief education on the Cockney language - the language of Shakespeare and King Henry VIII!
  • (4/5)
    Summary: In the 1950s, Jenny Lee arrives at St. Nonnatus House in the East End of London. She was trained as a nurse and was now to apprentice with the nuns of St. Nonnatus to learn midwifery. In post-war London, contraception was rare and unreliable, families were large, wages from jobs at the docks were low, and home births were common, so the midwives of Nonnatus House were a vital part of their community. Call the Midwife is a memoir of Nurse Lee's first few years at Nonnatus, and through her, we get to know the other inhabitants of Nonnatus House, from the sharp tongued Sister Evangelina to the aging and increasingly distracted Sister Monica Joan. We also get glimpses into the lives of the people of the East End, including a woman with twenty four children who spoke no English, a young Irish girl who ran away from a terrible situation at home only to find herself turned out as a prostitute, and an older woman who is still haunted by her time in the workhouse. Through them, Jenny learns the craft of midwifery, and finds kindness and cruelty, heartache and hope, and ultimately, compassion and faith. Review: I had never heard of these books before I began watching the TV series on PBS. And I absolutely fell in love with the show - it reliably makes me cry both happy and sad tears, sometimes at the same time, and it's just warm and caring and full of people who care for and about each other, and I just find it absolutely delightful, even though midwifery is not something I would necessarily care about in and of itself. And while I will do my best to review the book separate of the TV show, the truth is that they're very much intertwined. Many of the stories in this book have been used as episode plots in the show, sometimes with minor or not-so-minor changes, but pretty much all of the bones of this book were stories I was familiar with. This wasn't necessarily a hindrance - the book does present things in a somewhat different light than the show, with more detail and more contextual and historical information than can be presented in the television show. I also knew the main characters quite well before I started the book, so I can't really judge how well the book does in terms of characterization - it feels fabulous but that could just be because I already had them well pictured in my head. (The one exception is Chummy, who's one of my favorite parts of the show but appears in the book much less than I was expecting/hoping.)I listened to the audiobook of this, which was great as well; Worth does her best to transcribe the Cockney dialect (the printed version has an appendix with a dialect and pronunciation guide!), but nothing beats hearing it out loud.Overall, I really enjoyed this book, as I rather suspected I would. The stories don't always connect to one another cleanly, and there are some places where I got the sense that Mrs. Worth was over-editorializing or romanticizing her life (not often, though; she's usually pretty straightforward about the bad parts along with the good.) But it's also interesting from a historical perspective as well as a personal one - the 1950s don't seem like all that long ago, and yet it was a very, very different world in many ways. But the human element of the story has remained remarkably similar, and that's the part I enjoyed most. This book just felt warm and welcoming and full of compassion and grace, which made for a lovely listening experience. 4 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Fans of the TV show will find much that's familiar (and therefore much that's enjoyable) about the book. Otherwise, it's an interesting piece of medical and social history that's told from a very humanizing perspective.
  • (5/5)
    A true account of a young midwife's experiences in a poor section of England in the 1950's. The vibrancy with which the author recounts her experiences amazed and fascinated me, especially since she wrote about things 50 years later!
  • (5/5)
    I really enjoyed this book - it was a tremendous memoir. I loved the characters (the actors in the TV series were very well matched). I loved reading about the history of the convent and the sisters and about the East End of London in the 1950s. My dad was born in Stepney so must have lived in these atrocious conditions. My heart goes out to all of those poor women who had to live in such abject poverty.Back Cover Blurb:At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London's East End slums. The colourful characters she meets while delivering bables all over the East End of London - from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives, to the woman with twenty-four children who can't speak English, to the prositutes and dockers of the city's seedier side - illuminates a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, Call the Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.
  • (4/5)
    Medical care in the slums East London set in the 50's hardly seemed appealing but I am trying to be more open minded in my choice of reading material. I have never watched the series either. The beginning of the book had me telling myself "I told you so". My attention kept wandering but I was not ready to abandon the book yet. I am really glad I stuck it out because the stories told by Jenny were interesting. Some of them were funny and charming while others were heartbreaking. This is not a gentle book. Some of the stories are a bit graphic but I would say they appear realistic.
  • (5/5)
    Each chapter is a story of the difficulties of daily life for women; illegal abortion, premature birth, diseases that we never think about today. The stories are about very real people and their resilience in very difficult situations. I enjoyed the PBS series, I loved the memoir.
  • (5/5)
    I love when non-fiction has the story quality of fiction. Worth's stories of her patients, fellow midwives, and nuns were beautifully written and made me feel like I was apart of her life. I read this book not knowing its connection to a PBS show but could picture it playing out like a movie. The variety of patients and the short story style kept the book engaging and hard to put down.
  • (4/5)
    Can't believe what hard lives many of these people lived. Such an interesting book, chronicling the life of one Midwife in the 1950's in the East End of London. Dockworkers and their families living in tenements, woman having baby after baby. Another book that makes one glad they live in this period of time. These woman had it so hard, trying to feed their families with no indoor plumbing or water and very little money. One old lady who lived in an abandoned building actually had toenails that were 12 inches long and an inch thick, supposedly they are still part of a museum exhibit. Anyway really glad to have read this, to truly appreciate the sisters and midwives who gave these poor people medical attention, they were truly angels of mercy.
  • (5/5)
    From the cover of my edition I thought this would be kind of a fluffy British comedy with a little childbirth thrown in. How pleased I am that I was wrong. Jennifer Worth writes a good history of East Enders in the 1950's that includes discussion of poverty in its various forms from the loving families and supportive community of Poplar to the squalor and hopelessness of the condemned bombed out buildings inhabited by prostitutes, pimps and a few left behind family people in Stepney. She demonstrates the activities of a midwife of that time by describing the care of various characters, has a good side story about life in a workhouse, fleshes out the character of a grouchy old midwife-nun and describes horrible odors in a way that makes this reader grimace. As important as Worth's historical accuracy is her emotional accuracy as she confronts people living in poverty and grows from her natural middle class revulsion to an attitude of acceptance. Less successful, to me, was the accommodation she made with religion, but I guess that was a normal outgrowth of the respect for the hard working nuns who trained her. For linguists there's an addendum that describes the difficulties of writing the Cockney dialect. PBS has a good mini-series about the book that does fluff it up and tone down some of Worth's grittiness, and in the interest of not needing subtitles, leaves out the dialect Worth so lovingly describes.
  • (5/5)
    sad when the book ended. that time has really gone--nuns and cockneys!
  • (5/5)
    Fabulous account of life as a midwife in Londons east end in the 1960's. Brutally honest if not shocking although I think as a society we could benefit from returning to some of the old ways. I could not put the book down and it inspired me to read more on the subject. I also enjoyed the tv series of the book.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant. Jennifer Worth tells a great story. She writes very well, informative and entertaining. This is her autobiography of some of her nursing days, I look forward to trying her fiction of the same era.
  • (5/5)
    This woman has seen a lot. Being a midwife really gets you in amongst the real lives of people, and it shows with this book. The author went from nursing into midwifery training under the care of Nuns, and even though she wasn't religious, lived in the convent while practicing. 1950s East End London was a poor and rough place but her nurses uniform afforded her respect. Just how poor and crowded the area was shocked me. Most families lived packed into small 2 room places, and it was the norm to have at least 5 or 6 kids. Most families kept clean and tidy homes, but descriptions of some who lived in squalor- piles of human waste indoors, flies, half naked dirty children- astounded me. People couldn't afford to get a doctor for the delivery of a baby, and as mothers grandmothers, aunts and any older woman about could tell you, you didn't really need one. Such was the level of knowledge amongst them all, things were managed at home with the local midwife and GP if needed. Chapter by chapter Worth reveals the personal stories of the people she encountered in the course of her early career. So often, the stories are sad. Families were destroyed upon the early death of the husband/father, and few options were left for a mother trying to support a large brood of kids, and little or no income and no social security. Alcoholism, prostitution, condemned housing tenements. And then stories of loving and supportive families, sober hard-working, proud men who loved and helped their wives in the home- which was so unheard of then. The mixed bag that is humanity. A fantastic social history.
  • (3/5)
    I really enjoy this series on PBS and thought it would be fun to read the book it was based on. First, I was amazed at how well the series was cast. Almost every character from the series was completely recognizable in the books. (including my favorite - Chummy). So Kudos to the casting director!I enjoyed all the stories and while some were familiar - it had been long enough since I had watched the first season that I didn't remember all the details of the stories. It was a bit slow slow for me - especially after the half way mark. But a good read overall - if not a page-turner.
  • (3/5)
    I really enjoyed this book. The stories Worth recounts are unbelievable at times! It's hard to imagine people living the way they did not that long ago. (the 1950's) I would recommend this book if you are at all interested in midwifery or just life in the 50's in London. I couldn't put it down.

    The only reason I didn't give it 4 stars is because there's a graphic sex scene that takes place in a "Cafe" in the chapter titled, "Mary." The book would have been just as heart-wrenching without going into as much detail in that particular scene.
  • (4/5)
    A memoir of a nurse/midwife in the East End of London during the 1950's. This was an enjoyable story to listen to in the car. The author shows true affection for the people that she lives and works with an the reader comes to share that affection through the writing. I enjoyed this enough to download the other two books in the trilogy.
  • (2/5)
    This story wheels us back to the 1950s and the East End of London. Through a memoir of her time as a midwife, Worth introduces us to the perils and joys of life in a nunnery helping deliver babies in the poor parts of London - a London still rebuilding after WWII. The homes are teaming with children and laundry and mothers and the docks are swarming with hard working men. Worth is not a nun - but rather a nurse focusing on midwifery. And Nonnus house is the perfect place to learn.The chapters tell the stories of a wide variety of families - including one where mom only speaks Spanish and dad English. They have clearly figured out how to make it work - they have 25 children. The youngest is a baby born so premature he only weighed 1 and 1/2 pounds - at home - and he survived!I am not always a fan of memoirs - they sometimes meander across the years backward and forward more like a conversation than a story. This one behaved itself! I felt like I had a front row seat at a time of life that I am rather happy not to have lived through!I want to be sure to watch the PBS adaptation!
  • (4/5)
    This was slow going for me. I have never watched the show so I wasn't expecting anything out of the book. I found it interesting to read about how birth was in the 1950's in England. The stories of all the different women that she meets was entertaining.One woman had given birth 25 times. It is hard to believe that. Women and infidelity and then worrying about the baby not looking like the father/husband.
  • (4/5)
    A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times is a fair description of this story. This is the story of a young woman at the beginning of her nursing/midwife career and her experiences and observances of the London East End during the 1950s. The telling reminds me of the style of James Herriot and his veterinary novels, interspersing humor with pathos, joy with sadness and telling the story of a people and an age. It is very graphic in places, especially when she describes the prostitution of that time.I have a very difficult time reviewing this, because I read the audio version. I believe I would have given this book at least four stars for the content and the writing if I had read it in a print version. However, listening to the audio, it was very difficult for me to give it three and a half stars. I am sorry to say that to my ears, the narrator was very unsuitable for this story. She has a soft, sing-song style which would be well suited to a cozy mystery, or a children's fairy tale, but it was very unpleasant to hear the hard details of this story read in such a voice. It made a mockery of it. My teeth would grind as I tried to hear the real story behind the voice reading it. Very unsatisfactory experience, and I could not recommend the audio version of this story to anyone.
  • (4/5)
    This first volume in the memoir that the BBC TV series of this name is based on is a fascinating, well-told read, though the incidents relayed will be very familiar to anyone who has watched the show. The memoir is perhaps a bit more detailed, though the show certainly gets most of the particulars of life, midwifery, and 1950s medicine in. The series and the book organize material differently, and therein probably lies the biggest difference between this source material and the television produced from it: the TV series is a story with a social conscience revolving around characters while the memoir is anecdotal social history less concerned with "what will happen next." In particular, it focuses less on the personal lives of the midwives. I suspect reading the book(s) first and then watching the show would be the more rewarding activity rather than watching and then reading (the show feels a bit like it fleshes out and invitalizes what is already on the page), but the book still has much to offer if one's already watched. Worth tells the stories compellingly, explains things well, and is particularly good at demonstrating how naive or misguided her younger self was without sounding dismissive or self-deprecatory. Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Would absolutely recommend this book - as long as you aren't squeamish about OB/GYN procedures and birth! Keeping in mind this is non-fiction, and the author is not a "writer" but rather an older woman sharing the amazing stories of her life - this is very enjoyable. My only issues were that the story jumps around a bit and doesn't really flow - but again, she isn't a "writer" by trade and so all is forgiven. Very interesting read - I loved the people she knew and helped, and I loved the way she compared life then, with life now to remind us how very much living standards and technology have changed since the 1950's.
  • (5/5)
    Call the Midwife is the outstanding, wonderful, sensitive, sad and funny memoir of Jennifer Worth's years working as a nurse midwife in London's dock area in the 50's. Jennifer lived in an Anglican convent at the time; meeting many of the nicest people. Much more than just stories of childbirths, Worth provides historical, medical and social backgrounds of the times giving the reader a much better understanding of her experiences. She describes the spirit-killing, horrendous conditions of the workhouse, the dismal life of prostitutes, and the prevalence of domestic abuse. But she accentuates the positive, sweet goodness of the poor and middle-class residents of the area. This book is a gift to be treasured, read, re-read and shared.