5 Things You Need To Know About Jenny Lee

She cycled into our hearts as the leading character in Call the Midwife. But if you’re new to the show, here’s our quick introduction to Jenny Lee.

Jenny Lee

1. SHE'S DIDN'T EXPECT ANY OF THIS

Viewers who haven't been with Call the Midwife from the very start may be a bit surprised to learn that, despite being such a natural at her job, Jenny Lee had no idea what she was in for when she first turned up at Nonnatus House in the year 1957. Young, fresh-faced and - whisper it - the product of a rather comfortable upbringing, Jenny may have been keen to put her midwifery training into practice, but she certainly hadn't counted on being embedded in a convent in the gritty East End of London. Quite the opposite: she'd been led to believe that a cushy role in a private hospital was on the cards. As you can imagine, it took a little time for Jenny to adjust to her poverty-stricken surroundings, and the desperate needs of her patients.

Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee.

Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee.

2. SHE'S A TRULY GOOD PERSON

Going above and beyond the call of duty is second nature to Jenny Lee. Working a set number of hours and then switching her work brain off to relax for the evening just isn't her style. A warm, emotional and dedicated nurse and midwife, Jenny can't help but get drawn into the lives of the people who need her most - whether that means befriending a helpless teenager from Ireland who has been forced into becoming a prostitute, or going out of her way to make life better for an elderly army veteran who ekes out a lonely existence in a bleak tenement block. Jenny has a sincere goodness to her, a sense of overwhelming compassion, that makes it impossible for her to NOT immerse herself in her vocation.

3. SHE'S HAD A COMPLEX LOVE LIFE

She may be a wonderful person who makes a difference for the poor and downtrodden of East London, but that's not to say Jenny Lee is a blandly virtuous goody-goody (because can you imagine how grating she would get if she was?). She actually has a rather salacious romantic past - one of the reasons she ended up coming to London was to escape an emotionally fraught and hopeless love affair with a married man. Yes, the very same butter-wouldn't-melt Jenny Lee was in the throes of forbidden passion. On top of that, she's had a troubled, on-off, semi-platonic/semi-not relationship with her pal Jimmy. And there's sure to be more romance on the cards as well.

George Rainsford as Jimmy and Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee.

George Rainsford as Jimmy and Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee.

4. THERE'S AN OLDER JENNY

One fascinating feature of Call the Midwife is the presiding presence of another Jenny Lee. An older Jenny Lee, who looks back on these formative years with a mixture of fond nostalgia and rueful contemplation. It's the voice of this Jenny which provides some of the most memorable lines in the whole show - poetic and insightful, often commentating on the stories we've seen unfold. The fact that she's voiced by the great Vanessa Redgrave only adds extra resonance, and she even makes a physical appearance in a later episode.

5. SHE'S BASED ON A REAL JENNY LEE

One thing you absolutely have to know while watching Jenny Lee do her thing, is that she actually existed. Jennifer Lee, who would later become a famous author under her married name Jennifer Worth, really was a nurse and midwife who practiced in London's East End in the 1950s. It was many, many years later - in 1998, in fact - that she was inspired to write about her experiences after reading an article in the RCM Midwives Journal which pointed out the lack of midwives in art and literature.

Jennifer's scrappy, handwritten manuscript would become her bestselling memoir, Call the Midwife. And yet there was even more to the real Jenny than midwifery, with a second career in music which saw her performing as a pianist and choir singer across Europe. She passed away in 2011, not long before the very first episode of Call the Midwife aired with a dedication to her.