[Review] No Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I by Wendy Moore

Publisher and Publication Date: Basic Books/Hachette Book Group. 2020.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. World War I.
Pages: 353.
Format: Library hardcover binding.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of the history of medicine during war time. Readers of World War I history and medical practices. Readers with an interest of female surgeons and nurses during World War I.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

(The second video is fascinating. About 13 minutes and 42 seconds in viewing length.)

My Review of No Man’s Land:

Recently I read a historical fiction story about two sisters who were in France during World War I. One of the sisters was an ambulance driver. The other sister was a nurse. That story left me wanting to know more. I wanted to understand what the nurses and surgeons who cared for the injured soldiers experienced, especially in regard to medicine and caregiving during World War I. I wanted to read a book with historical medical information and not the fluff of other things. No Man’s Land is an excellent choice!

The book begins with a group of women who are a medical team called Women’s Hospital Corps, and they have a goal of setting up a hospital in France in mid-September of 1914. The women are a mix of physicians, nurses, and orderlies. Money was quickly raised for the expense of the new group.

Upon arriving in Paris, France, they set up a hospital in the Hotel Claridge. Later, they relocated to the Chateau Mauricien. And within a couple of years, they would be established in the Endell Street Military Hospital in London, England.

No Man’s Land is several fascinating features in one volume:
1. The battles of World War I. This includes the lesser-known battles.
2. The historical facts relating to women who wanted to become a doctor. What they endured. Where they went to medical school. The strict boundary lines of who they were allowed to take care of-women and children only. The suffragist movement in London.
3. World War I changed social customs between men and women.
4. World War I made it possible for women to join the workforce.
5. The history of a one-of-a-kind hospital staffed only by women.
6. The continuing education and progressive practices of caring for injured. For example, dealing with infections, and the different types of injuries seen.
7. The German airship raids in London.
8. Shellshock.
9. Several personal stories of the soldiers. It is their testaments and not just the medical personnel that creates a heartbeat for the book.
10. The Spanish flu.

There are two female physicians who are the main characters of the book. Several other women doctors and nurses and medical staff are shared with their roles during World War I, but it is these two women who are the focus. Their names are Dr. Flora Murray and Dr. Louisa Anderson. There are brief bios on both of them at the beginning. They lived a shared life, not just as a medical team, but as life partners. The book never veers away from their work and towards their private life. What I am saying is they were dedicated to the medical field and in caring for people. I’ve read some reviews of readers who didn’t like the lesbian couple. This is ridiculous. In the book, that word is not used to refer to them. Their personal and private life in that regard is not remarked on except in stating they lived together, had two dogs, and wore rings. The emphasis of the book, and the emphasis of their lives displayed in this book, is caring for the wounded and sick soldiers during World War I. I say, God bless them.

Wendy Moore has written an excellent piece dedicated to the women who in some instances gave their lives for the care of the soldiers. If not in death, they gave up their civilian lives for the benefit of others.

[Review] The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Publisher and Publication Date: Park Row Books. January 29, 2019. 
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 377.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers especially those who read WWII stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Pam Jenoff’s Goodreads/ website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram.

Summary:

February 1946. New York City, NY.

Grace Healey is late for work and cuts through Grand Central. She trips on an abandoned suitcase sticking out from underneath a bench. Out of curiosity, she opens the suitcase and finds the name of the owner. Inside she finds an envelope of photographs. They are of several women. Some of the women are in military uniforms. They are all young women. Grace begins working to put the puzzle together about all of the women. She must know who they are and what happened to them.

The second story is of the woman who was in charge of the young women. Her name is Eleanor. Her story begins in 1943, England.

The Lost Girls of Paris is the story of heroism and courage. Young women, who from different backgrounds and cultures, are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of country, duty, and loved ones.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I love this story and enjoyed reading it.

What I love about the story:

1. I don’t feel I will ever tire of reading World War II stories. My dad was a veteran of World War II, D-Day Omaha Beach, and the Battle of the Bulge. He shared many stories with me as a child and adult. I know his stories. I want to know other people’s stories which includes historical fiction.

2. Grace Healey is a perfect example of a grieving widow. I feel Pam Jenoff portrayed an accurate widow who is displaced, wounded, grieving, lonely, and at a loss in how to move forward. This includes not knowing even where to begin. I personally know a woman who lost her husband on the USS Indianapolis. She still grieves. She went on with life. She married and had children. But he was a great love-a great friend-a young love-who is lost to her. Grace and my friend show similar behavior. I feel Grace is an accurate and real character in this story.

3. I love it that romance is not the focus. So often romance is introduced in a story, and it can and often does take over.

4. I love it that Grace realizes she must move forward in life, but it must be “her own story.”

5. This is a minor detail, but I love it that Grace is defined as having “corkscrew hair.” I don’t think this has been described before in a story I’ve read. Grace is given a minor detail, yet it’s a difference compared to how other female characters are described. I love this minor detail.

6. I enjoyed reading about the instructions of operating a wireless.

7. I love the friendship between the women. Some of them upon meeting show a kindred spirit.

8. The dialogue and descriptions are wonderful and engaging. It felt easy to picture the scenes in my mind.

What I feel needs clarification:

At the start of the story, I didn’t quite understand what had happened to Grace. What I mean is Grace has marks on her neck, she had been drinking the night before, she is sluggish, and she is hungover. My first thought is she had been abused. My second thought is she has an alcohol problem. And she blames a person named Mark who I don’t know yet. My point is I feel lost at the start. Later, I put the event all together and understand. I don’t like feeling lost especially at the start of a story.

Final Thoughts:

Eleanor is too cool. Chilly. Icy. However, her personality fits her character.

Mark is grieving too. I feel sorry for him.

This is a story I’d like to read a part 2 so I will know what Grace becomes.

Themes in the story: war, peace, grieving, courage, heroism, resistance, honor, judgment, injustice, justice, dreams, trust, temptation, charity, hope, and acceptance.

(Review) Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong
Publisher and Publication Date: Vintage. Published March 21st 2012. First published September 27, 1993.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 496.
Source: Library ebook copy.
Audience: Romance readers who can also digest a war story, or readers of military stories who can digest a love story.  Historical fiction readers of World War I.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link for the book

Birdsong is book two in the French Trilogy by Sebastian Faulks. The first book is The Girl at the Lion d’Or. The third book is Charlotte Gray. I’ve read Charlotte Gray. This last book I rated good or 3 stars. From what I remember, Charlotte Gray was a bland character.

Summary:
The year is 1910. Stephen Wraysford is a young Englishman who stays with the Azaire family in France. He is observing and learning about Mr. Azaire’s factory business. Mrs. Isabelle Azaire is the second wife and step-mother to the two children. She is a proper, respected, and lovely woman. The constraints of her economic class and the era in which she lives creates an insecurity about being perfect. However, perfect is a façade, an illusion. From the first moment, there is an instant attraction between Stephen and Isabelle. There are several scenes of lingering eye contact and touching, which builds to the moment they seek a safe place to act on their attraction. Their relationship is powerful and they are swept up in the energy it brings. It peaks when reality sets. The story then shifts to the early years of World War I. Stephen is in the British army. He is an officer in command of other soldiers. A secondary story is the late 1970s, England. A middle age woman is in search of information about her grandfather. The book is primarily about Stephen Wraysford. The lens is on him.

My Thoughts:
I have so many thoughts about this story.
•I’d heard about this book years ago when the movie was on PBS. I watched pieces of this movie at that time. I’m hoping to watch it in full.
•Recently, I read an account (from someone else) this book gave a solid look at World War I. I agree. It is descriptive about so many aspects of the war I’d not considered. For example, the lice and flea problem. Lice and fleas permeated the soldier during World War I. Even when they were on leave and cleaned up, the eggs were in the clothing. They’d hatch eventually and the soldier began itching. The itching was done without realizing, because they’d become accustomed to the problem. Another aspect is the shaking or tremor in the hands of soldiers. Their hands shook because of PTSD. Other aspects of the war in this book: the sound that a shell makes before it hits the target; what happened to a human body depending on where the shell hit; the miners who tunneled; an explanation of what gangrene does to a human body; what a poisonous gas attack does to a human body; medical treatments from doctors and nurses; the feeling of detachment for a soldier; retrieving dead bodies for burial; and the infestation of rats.
Birdsong is a book about relationships. Relationships between husbands and wives, parent and children, lovers, friends, and soldiers who are in war. As I’ve become older, I have learned there are different types of love and different levels of love. And, people who romantically love one another, and it is a deep love, don’t always end up in a permanent relationship. Sometimes things don’t work out for people who love one another. This book explores a lingering love. A love that doesn’t go away, but only finds a safe place to settle in a person’s heart.
•Faulks is a descriptive writer. I found myself lingering and rereading certain parts, especially with people. I felt that if I reread those portions about the person I might understand them better. I might see them in my mind clearer.
•The themes in the story pull at the heart. For example, war and the impact it makes on generations.
Birdsong is a haunting story. It’s a memorable story.
Birdsong is a mature story. I’m not saying that if you are 18 you are not old enough to read the story. Birdsong requires a maturity about life that is made profound by older eyes.
•I understand the reason for including the modern story. However, I didn’t care for it. It felt pasted. It felt insignificant in comparison to Stephen’s story.

 

(Review) The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by Iris Chang

 

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Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Books. 1998.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. World War II.
Pages: 290.
Source: Library. E-book copy.
Rating: Recommend, but not for a minor or a person who is sensitive.
Audience: For readers interested in the history of Imperial Japan’s invasion of China.

Amazon

I borrowed this book twice via OverDrive-an app to borrow books from the library. I recommend this app!

 

If you’ve read previous reviews of this book, you’ve read comments like, “a hard read” or “graphic.” This is an understatement. I read at night before bed. This is a tough book to read before bedtime. Many of the chapters are filled with heart-wrenching, macabre, and even fearful stories. The research, interviewing, and writing of this book is a story in itself. A must read chapter in the book is at the tail end: Iris Chang’s painful life and ending. This is one of the most memorable books I’ve read, because of the content and the author. I recommend this book, but with hesitation. Do not feel that you must read a book that will disturb you. I’ve watched many frightening films and read scary books, but have not been as disturbed as this book. Read it, but take your time. Possibly read a chapter or less at one sitting followed by another book that’s a light read.

On December 13, 1937, Nanking, China, the capital city of Nationalist China, fell to Imperial Japan. To use words like atrocities, rampage, and murder is not sufficient.
Iris Chang felt compelled (and thrust herself as on a life mission) to discover the complete history in order to write a book on the Rape of Nanking. She felt many books had been written about the Holocaust during World War II, but the history of the Rape of Nanking had left few writings. She did not want that generation of survivors (and also as a memorial to those who’d died) to die without telling their stories.

This review is not going to be as usual: sharing what I liked and disliked about the book.
To me, this book is hallowed, almost a sacred testament. I feel it would be disrespectful to do otherwise.

Notable aspects in The Rape of Nanking:
•The history and building up of Imperial Japan. Who they were pre 20th century, the political reasonings of Japan, and the movement of Japan against other nations in East Asia.
•Japan and their alliances and relationship with Italy and Germany during World War II.
•Detailed facts and figures.
•A strong point that Japan has tried to ignore or minimize this history.
•The officers in charge of the army who took Nanking. This includes their background and epilogue.
•Answers the question as to how the Japanese soldiers could have been so rabid in their actions.
•Women who were taken/abducted to be used in sexual slavery. These women were from China, but also from other Asian countries.
•Stories are shared by those Chinese who survived.
•Stories of three western civilians who tried to help the Chinese. This includes their life story and epilogue.
•The Nanking War Crimes Trial.
•Epilogue of how the survivors lived after the war.

 

(Review) The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

Publisher and Publication Date: Crown Publishing Group. February 14, 2017.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Pages: 371.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.

Amazon

Summary:
Chilbury, England is the setting for a fictional village of people during World War II. At first, the village choir was going to end. Later, the choir continued on as a ladies’ choir only. Most of the men are away, or about to leave to fight in the war. Five females are the main characters. The story is told through journals and letters.
The female characters are Mrs. Tilling (nurse), Kitty Winthrop (age 13), Venetia Winthrop (age 18), Silvie (10 year old Czechoslovakian evacuee), and Miss Edwina Paltry (midwife). Other women are included in the book, but are secondary characters.

My Thoughts:
Mrs. Winthrop who is the mother of Venetia and Kitty, would have been a wonderful main character. I wanted more of “her” story to be told. She had a cruel husband, an arrogant son, two teenage daughters, and a baby on the way. I was curious about Mrs. Winthrop all through the novel. I wanted more input from her than some of the main characters and I was disappointed by this.
The scheming midwife and her plan is not feasible. I do not believe it is realistic. However, it is a main plot for the book.
Venetia is a tart. I did not like her as a person until later in the story. I’m glad she developed and matured in her character.
My favorite character is Mrs. Tilling. She worked tirelessly to unravel and understand a plot.
The time period is World War II. The war is talked about in regards to its affect of turmoil, fear, and sadness for the village. The loss of life is a present threat.
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a book that’s had strong media coverage. Although I liked the book, it is not a strong like. The main reason is it did not pull at my heart strings, because the story is told through letters and journals. These are written in brief, just a few pages. I didn’t have time to become apart of a character before another character began speaking. The book does not jump back and forth in time like so many fiction books seem to do. However, there are several voices in the book shown in brief chapters all vying for my attention.