[Review] Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman

Publisher and Publication Date: Mira Books. October 26, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 400.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War I historical fiction, both combat, and medical/nursing care. Readers of romance: male/female romance and a same sex female romance.
Rating: Okay to good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

The last pages in the book are the Acknowledgement and Source pages. It’s brief.
If you are interested in reading more about World War I, I am including the books I’ve read. These books are nonfiction and fiction.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.
A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914 to 1918 by G. J. Meyer.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.
The character Bess Crawford in the mystery series by Charles Todd. She was a nurse during World War I but became a sleuth-detective both during the war and afterwards. The settings are in England, Ireland, and France.
None of Us the Same by Jeffrey Walker.
Letters to Doberitz by Derek R. Payne.
The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.

I recently watched Charite and Charite at War on Netflix. I enjoyed both series. Watching them piqued my interest in reading about nursing/medical care during a time of war. I’ve read more books about World War II and wanted to read about World War I medical care. This interest led me to search for books on Amazon that were in this genre. I settled on Sisters of the Great War. However, I’d like to read a book that’s primary focus is on nursing and medical care during World War I.

Summary:

The story begins in 1914. The story ends in 1920.

Ruth and Elise Duncan are sisters who live in Baltimore, Maryland. When the story begins Ruth is a nursing student at Loyola College of Nursing. Elise is the family mechanic. Ruth is the older of the two sisters. Elise is 18. Their father is a physician. Their grandfather lives with them. Their mother died in childbirth having Elise. In August of 1914, both sisters decide to travel to Ypres, Belgium and help with the war. Ruth will be a nurse. Elise will be an ambulance driver. They arrive in Belgium, April 1915.

Meanwhile, Ruth had met John in Maryland, who is now a medical doctor in Belgium treating the wounded soldiers.

Elise is coming into her own person about who she is and what she wants in life.

Both sisters are on the cusp of discoveries about who they are and what they will persevere to become.

My Thoughts:

The main problem I have with the story is it’s too busy. War itself is a gigantic and busy theme for Sisters of the Great War. But added to it is two sisters with their own personal stories: romances, war experiences, injuries, life decisions, female traditional roles, social customs, society in early 20th century, traumatic family history, and decisions about who they are and what they want in life. One sister would be sufficient for a book. By adding two sisters, I feel it makes the book top heavy. When a book is full of heavy themes, plots, etc., it is difficult to become swept away and feel an investment in and feel a part of the story, because I don’t have time to settle down and become engaged with the story and characters. Another words I felt yanked from here to there too much.

The setting for most of the story is in Belgium. The specific places are the hospital settings, living quarters for Ruth and Elise, and Elise’s ambulance driving in the war zone areas.

Sisters of the Great War is told from the 3rd person point of view.

I feel it is too much to expect Ruth and Elise will continue through all the time they are involved in the war effort, to be near one another in location. It is the same for Ruth and John. I feel these are valid points that cause the book to lack in believability. By the end of the war, there were about 22-23,000 nurses who had given care. And there had been almost 5,000 ambulance drivers. Yet these three people are able to remain near one another.

The story ends too clean. I almost expected a red bow pasted to the last word. Where is the believability in this? War causes loss-multiple losses. John lost a body part. But his story about how he feels as well as the aspect of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for all the characters who were in the war is not talked about. At that time, it was called Shellshock. I had hoped the book would address this. I am disappointed.

I have read several reviews from people who are disappointed in the same sex romance. They didn’t know this theme is in the book. Actually, in the opening pages of the book where the publisher usually has a short list of what the genre, subjects, or themes of the book is listed-nothing is written! I feel it is beneficial to know about the genre and other aspects of a book. Not everyone wants to read about sexual activities. Not everyone wants to read about combat operations in a war. Not everyone wants to read about a sexual assault. Not everyone wants to read about other types of subjects or themes in books. It is helpful to know about a book before purchase or reading. Good communication is also for the books we read.
I do not name call or call a person out because they do not want to read about certain themes in a book. When I think about this situation, I am reminded about being on the playground in elementary school with other kids taunting other kids. It is never okay to name call-neither side. I have a great love and compassion for people no matter who they are. And I dislike name calling.
I am only disappointed because I wanted the book to have a primary focus on medical and nursing care during World War I. Nevertheless, Sisters of the Great War is a good starting place.

My favorite place in the story (even though it is sad) is when an aero plane flew over a hospital and shot at the defenseless and vulnerable people on the ground. This action scene shows the destruction and brutality of war. The moment when Ruth took charge is a “bravo” moment for the whole book!

Themes in the story: war, peace, romance, heroism, courage, power of love, bravery, perseverance, survival, judgment, family honor, hope, tolerance, conformity, resistance, and suffering.



Quote of the Week

“On the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below.
Over the house-tops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet,
Dancing,
Flirting,
Skimming along,
Beautiful snow, it can do nothing wrong.”

Beautiful Snow [1869]. Stanza 1.

John Whittaker Watson [1824-1890].

Barlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 1955. Page 632.

Quote of the Week

“Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson [1809-1892]

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett
Published by Little, Brown and Company in 1955. Page 549.
“Break, Break, Break” Stanza 1. 1842.

[Review] Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

Publisher and Publication Date: G P Putnam’s Sons. March 23, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 480.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction with an interest in the Holocaust, Italian history, Rome, and World War II.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon for the Kindle copy.
Link @ Audible.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Link @ Penguin Random House.

Lisa Scottoline’s Goodread author page/ Website/ Twitter/ Instagram.

An interactive map for the book, Eternal.

Summary:

Elisabetta, Sandro, and Marco grew up together in Rome, Italy. While growing up as children they were best friends. During the teenage years their feelings changed to romantic love. Two young men in love with the same young woman. Elisabetta loves them both, yet differently.

The story begins in 1937, in Rome, Italy. Benito Mussolini or Duce is in power in Italy. He is a Fascist dictator. The rise in antisemitism is in Italy just as in other European countries. In Germany, the Nazi’s are in power, and they are tightening restrictions and spurring hatred of the Jews. Their power is spreading.

In Italy, the members of the Fascist Party wear black shirts. Marco and his father are Fascists. Sandro and his family are Jews. To make things even more complicated, the two families have been friends for years. And the relationship will remain strained and at a danger to all of them.

My Thoughts:

Eternal is a name of Rome-the Eternal City. Rome is both the setting and a character of the story. Sometimes a home, church, or city can be so descriptive and alive that it too can be compared to a character in a book. Rome-the Eternal City-is to me a character. The setting of Rome is a breathing character-it is alive and vivid. This is the first reason why I love this story. The setting of Rome, Italy is described beautifully (despite the horrors of the evil atrocities of some people) Rome is still itself beautiful and loved by its people. I am also glad to have a World War II historical fiction story in a different place than most of the other books.

The love relationship between three people is not going to end positive for someone. Someone will get hurt, maybe multiple people. At times in the story, I had no idea what to expect in this entanglement. What would be the final outcome? This is both a theme, conflict, and a strong reason to continue turning the pages.

I love the passion of the characters. I am not referring to just romantic passion. For example, the passionate love of Italy. The passionate love of parents.

Internal and external conflicts are strong. The external conflicts are Italian Fascists, Mussolini, Nazi Germany, antisemitism, the love triangle, and the war. The internal conflicts are the love triangle, duty, loyalty, power of love, revenge, grief, intolerance of race and religion, and other factors.

Further themes in the story: jealousy, compassion, bravery, kindness, survival, sacrifice, honor, suffering, peace, war, and resistance.

Eternal is an emotionally moving and memorable story. It is a story I will not forget.

[Review] The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper. September 4, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on a true story.
Pages: 273.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction with a subject of the Holocaust.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon.
Link @ Audible.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Heather Morris website.

Heather Morris’s Goodread’s Author Page.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is book 1 in a series of 3 books. The other two books are Cilka’s Journey, and Three Sisters. I have these books and will be reading and reviewing them in the future.

Heather Morris met and interviewed Lale Sokolov. She has the support of his son in the writing of this book. I don’t know why the book is not nonfiction. I don’t know what the fiction part of this story is or why she chose to make this a fiction instead of nonfiction.

Summary: The account begins in April 1942. The men are in a crowded, stifling, windowless cattle train traveling to a camp. All of them are Jews. The story centers on a young man named Lale. He is 25. Lale’s hometown is Krompachy, Slovakia. After two days of travel, they arrive at Auschwitz. Lale is not at Auschwitz long when he is given a job as a tattooist. It is his job to tattoo the series of numbers on the people who have been brought to Auschwitz. These people are prisoners. They are men and women, boys and girls. They are Jews and Romany. Lale does not want to look at the faces of the people he tattoos. At times he is under stress and nervous, this causes his tattooing to be rough and painful. One particular time he looks up and into the beautiful eyes of a woman. It is at this moment his heart flutters and he is struck with emotion.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one man’s harrowing story of a hellish existence at Auschwitz and his love for a woman.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a long list of Holocaust stories. Most of the stories do not completely take place at a concentration camp. At some point in the story, there will be a memory-reminiscing of that time or there will be a point in the story when the character is a prisoner. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is about 98% at Auschwitz. This means that because of the horrors, murders, sickness, suffering, and depravity of that place (including the anticipation of further horrible things) there will be no pauses in this story. In certain fiction stories, an author places moments of rest so the reader can catch a break (a breather before another stressful event occurs), especially if the story is mysterious, gruesome, and bleak.

Lale is an amazing character. These are the traits I found: charming, intelligent, observant, dressed well before his imprisonment, long-suffering, resilient, an encourager, the ability to adapt to new jobs quickly, and courageous. When Morris interviewed him, Lale was mistrustful and didn’t want just anyone to document his story. I am glad Morris added in the author’s note a brief sketch of their interviews and relationship.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz documents a daily survival in Auschwitz. A descriptive paragraph gives evidence of this: “The months that follow are particularly harsh. Prisoners die in all manner of ways. Many are taken by disease, malnutrition, and exposure to the cold. A few make it to an electrified fence, killing themselves. Others are shot by a tower guard before they can. The gas chambers and crematoria are also working overtime, and Lale and Leon’s tattooing stations teem with people as tens of thousands are transported to Auschwitz and Birkenau.” Page 155.

Romance is a theme in the story. But the romance does not shift away from the mood or tone of the story. This is a story of extreme suffering and stress and sorrow. The romantic element is stolen moments so they can be together. A paying off of people is done so they will have time together. He shares what he can with her including his food rations. Their courtship is extravagant considering their place of forced exile.

Other themes in the story: war, peace, survival, good and evil, courage, bravery, compassion, power of love, injustice, and resistance.