In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.
But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.
Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.
Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.
The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.
Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.
The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.
Praise for The Midwife of Venice:
“Roberta Rich introduces a unique heroine, and her wry humour leavens a serious subject. Not wholly an intense social drama or an over-the-top adventure, The Midwife of Venice is a quirky blend of both.”
Globe & Mail
“The Midwife of Venice is a compelling and engaging novel, a well-researched high-stakes drama written with elegance and compassion. Fascinating!”
Sandra Gulland, author of
The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun
“An engrossing, well-written, and fast-paced story about a fascinating period in history. The descriptions of sixteenth century Venice were so vivid, they were almost tangible.”
Joy Fielding, author of See Jane Run and Charley’s Web
“A meticulously researched page-turner that evokes Renaissance Venice with remarkable clarity, radiance, and vigour.”
William Deverell, author of Trial of Passion and Snow Job
“Not only did Roberta Rich transport me to 16th century Venice with its seductive tapestries of smells, sights, textures, and beliefs, she involved me in a poignant story of seasoned love.”
Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History and The Mourner’s Dance
“Rich paints vivid imagery…The Midwife of Venice offers much for readers to learn in the ways of Renaissance-era midwifery, the slave trade and even the diabolical tricks of 16th century courtesans.”
Winnipeg Free Press
“compelling… those who are curious about religion, birthing or 16th century history will enjoy this book.”
“The Midwife of Venice is one of the best novels to be written in the genre of historical fiction since The Girl with the Pearl Earring.
United States February 2012
Ebury/Random House UK
Bulgaria 2013Novo Seculo
Court Echelle Quebec 2013
Alnari Serbia 2013
Boekencentrum Uitgevers Netherlands 2013
Ikar, Slovakia 2014
The Midwife of Venice
Hannah ha-Levi, a midwife in the Venetian ghetto is put in terrible danger. She has gained renown for her skill in coaxing reluctant babies out of their mother’s bellies using her “birthing spoons” as rudimentary forceps. One night a Christian nobleman, Conte Paolo di Padovani appears at Hannah’s door in the Jewish ghetto with an impossible request.
He implores Hannah to help his dying wife and save their unborn child. But a Papal edict has made it a crime, punishable by death, for Jews to give medical treatment to Christians. The Conte offers her a huge sum of money, enough to enable her to sail to Malta to ransom her beloved husband, Isaac. He was captured at sea and is a slave of the Knights of St. John.
Hannah acquiesces and delivers the infant, Matteo, a child who captures her heart. As she prepares to depart for Malta to rescue Isaac, she discovers that the baby’s uncles are plotting to murder the baby in order to seize the family fortune.
In the absence of the Conte and his wife who are in Ferrara on urgent family matters, Hannah believes she must safeguard Matteo. She enlists her sister Jessica who is a courtesan and living as a Christian outside the ghetto. An outbreak of the plague traps them in Venice and makes them easy prey for the baby’s murderous uncles.
Woven through Hannah’s travails are Isaac’s hardships as a slave in Malta. Blessed with wit and charm, he earns scraps of food as a scribe and pins his hopes for freedom on bartering his precious silkworm eggs. To reach Isaac, who believes she has died in the plague, Hannah must outsmart the Padovani family and sail to Malta before Isaac manages to buy his passage to a new life in Constantinople.
Roberta Rich has crafted an enthralling story that makes 16th Century Venice throb with life and suspense. Her next novel will be set in Constantinople. She divides her time between Vancouver and Mexico.
Find out more about Roberta on her website:
Click here for an interview with Roberta Rich and Joy Fielding in the National Post:
Click here the Globe & Mail review of The Midwife of Venice:
20 questions with Roberta Rich:
How Roberta found her genre:
For more reviews click on links below:
*4 stars on Good Reads*
Listen to Roberta’s interview on CBC radio’s North by Northwest: