After reading the shockingly brutal novel Death Sentence (my review for which you can read here), my jaded nerves needed some gentle and wholesome reading material to recover so I browsed my "to be reviewed" bookshelf looking for something suitably inoffensive. A Wartime Nurse was just what the doctor ordered (if you'll excuse the pun) !
The title tells you everything you need to know about the plot - this will be a story of a heroic Florence Nightingale type of figure dealing with the mangled bodies and minds created by the war, as well as keeping the home fires burning while the men go off to fight, looking after her family and "keeping on keeping on". How many clichés can I fit in one sentence ? Well, about as many as there are in the book !
Theda Wearmouth, the central character of the story, is indeed a praiseworthy, hard-working nurse, although to be honest, she seems to be a bit too much of a goody-two-shoes at the beginning to be really likeable. While the representation of the American and Canadian servicemen wooing the local girls at the village hall dances seems stereotypical, I couldn't help but smile as, having researched my family tree, I was amazed to see how many of the women in my family line actually did end up in Canada after being romanced by servicemen on leave in the UK ! Maybe it's not just a cliché then ?! Other aspects of life during the war were things I'd never thought of, for example the nurses forced to care for wounded Nazi prisoners of war. I'm sure this did happen and can imagine the tension that must have caused.
Other wartime details did seem slightly inaccurate to me though. It peeved me, for example, to see the constant references to Thelda picking up her flashlight to go outside in the dark but never once taking her gasmask. Again, although there is a reference to a minor character being killed in an air raid and a few gaps in the streets where houses have been bombed, there is never the slightest air raid siren, ARP patrol or mention of air raid shelters anywhere. But I'm used to hearing war stories from the South of England, where German planes often flew overhead and V1 and V2 missiles launched from the continent were constant threats, so maybe wartime experiences in the North of England weren't quite the same. The evocation of life in a mining community before and during the war was another very interesting element.
It reminded me of watching a daytime soap opera. There are a few "shock horror" moments but, even then, all the gory stuff is done offscreen (or off the page) so even those with the most delicate sensibilities can safely read the whole book without ever finding anything the slightest bit upsetting ! Even the love scenes are decidedly PG so this will be a lovely romantic book with a historic slant to offer your grannies and mums for Christmas.
It's not hugely original and is quite predictable but it's still a nice heartwarming read, perfect for snuggling under the covers with now the nights are drawing in !
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £5.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Ebury Press (17 Mar 2011)
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