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The nun Sister Monica Joan who was addicted to taking taxis and went straight to heaven – by taxi…

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The nun, Sister Monica Joan, who was addicted to taking taxis and went straight to heaven – by taxi…

  • Jennifer Worth’s three memoirs about giving birth to babies in one of the most deprived areas of London formed the basis for the hugely popular BBC Call The Midwife
  • Jennifer Worth died in 2011 shortly before the first episode of Call The Midwife
  • Worth’s books are known for their unwavering portrayal of East End life

Toffee Apples and Quail Feathers

by Jennifer Worth (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99, 239pp)

When retired obstetrician Jennifer Worth read an article asking if there was a writer who “can do for obstetrics what James Herriot did for vets,” she rose to the challenge.

Her three memoirs about giving birth to babies in one of the most deprived areas of London formed the basis for the BBC’s hugely popular Call The Midwife, which is still going strong after 11 series.

Worth’s books are known for their unwavering portrayal of East End life; the squalid, overcrowded accommodation, the frequent outbursts of violence and – paradoxically – the strong sense of community.

Social historian David Kynaston, author of the brilliant Austerity Britain, admitted he had expected Worth’s books to be “sentimental stuff” but ended up praising them as “an important historical document” about the Docklands from before 1960.

Jennifer Worth died in 2011, shortly before the first episode of Call The Midwife aired.

Jennifer Worth’s three memoirs about delivering babies in one of the most deprived areas of London formed the basis for the BBC’s hugely popular Call The Midwife (pictured), which is still going strong after 11 series

This new book, edited by her daughter Suzannah, combines some recently unearthed stories with chapters from her previously published books.

The new material mainly features Fred, the handyman of the monastery, who always has a plan to make money, whether it be raising quail, working in music halls or selling toffee apples.

However, the best chapters come from Worth’s early books. Who Can Resist Chummy, played on television by Miranda Hart; a student midwife with a triple surname that is “bigger than life, clumsy, shy and clumsy; a social outsider with a heart of gold’?

There is a gripping chapter where Chummy delivers a baby to a ship near the harbor. While James Herriot didn’t give too many details about what happened when his hand was inside a cow, Worth spares the reader some gory details about human births. Some may feel nauseous, but reading it will have you on the edge of your seat.

One of the quirks of Worth’s story is that, rather than being hospitalized, she lived with nuns during her time in the East End. She soon became fond of the nuns, especially Sister Monica Joan, who was “intelligent, very eccentric, headstrong and at times downright rude.”

She was addicted to taking taxis all over London, costing the monastery a fortune in travel expenses; when she was told to stop, she simply walked into traffic and asked astonished drivers to give her a lift.

When Sister Monica Joan died very suddenly of a stroke, one of the nuns suggested that she must have “taken a taxi straight to heaven.”

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