'At midnight, the dogs, cats, and rats rule Venice. The Ponte di Ghetto Nuovo, the bridge that leads to the ghetto, trembles under the weight of sacks of rotting vegetables, rancid fat, and vermin.
It was on such a night that the men came for Hannah.'
Hannah Levi is famed throughout Venice for her skills as a midwife but, as a Jew, the law forbids her from attending a Christian woman.
However, when the Conte di Padovani appears at her door in the dead of night to demand her services, Hannah's compassion is sorely tested. And with the handsome reward he is offering, she could ransom back her imprisoned husband.
But if she fails in her endeavours to save mother and child, will she be able to save herself, let alone her husband!
Thanks to Hannah at Ebury Press for sending me this book to read and review, this is definitely another one I would not have bought myself!
The story is set in the 16th century and begins with some late night visitors arriving at Hannah Levi's house wanting her to come with them to deliver the child of the Conte's wife, as she has a reputation of being able to deliver stubborn babies, who has been suffering in childbirth for the last couple of days.
As a midwife Hannah wants to help deliver a live baby but as a Jew she knows that it is forbidden for her delivery a Christian baby, and if she was caught there would be serious consequences for her especially if she's using the tool she designed herself, her birthing spoons (what today we call forceps).
When the Conte offers to reward her financially, Hannah agrees as this money will help her secure the release of her husband who has been kidnapped by pirates and is being held to ransom in Malta.
The book is told from both the viewpoint of Hannah and her husband Isaac in alternate chapters, Hannah's struggle to overcome the many obstacles that hinder her plans to go to Malta to rescue Isaac, and his life as a slave trying to find ways to escape to make his way back to Hannah. Both not knowing if the other is still alive yet their enduring love for each other keeping their faith alive.
Even though this is definitely not the type of book that I would have chosen to read, I did find myself rooting for them and willing them to overcome all the obstacles and eventually be reunited.