[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] 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.



(Review) A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

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Publisher and Publication Date: Knopf. 2014.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War I.
Pages: 214.
Source: eBook copy from the library.
Audience: Readers of American history, World War I, and post war years.
Rating: Very good.

I love the ability to borrow eBooks from the library. It’s one of the most convenient things in my life. The two apps for borrowing the eBooks are Libby (by OverDrive) and OverDrive. Libby is the more user-friendly of the two.

Link from the National Archives on this history.

Summary: 
The Gold Star Mother’s Association lobbied during the 1920s for a pilgrimage trip to the grave sites of fallen Veterans during World War I. Widows and mothers were able to visit the grave site of their loved one. The cost of the trip was paid for the United States government.
Cora Blake’s only child died in France a month before the Armistice. Cora lives in Deer Isle, Maine. She takes care of her nieces and brother-in-law. She works at the library and fish cannery.

My Thoughts: 

What I liked about A Star for Mrs. Blake:
•I was drawn to the story because it’s history I’ve not heard about. I love women’s stories that tell me something I didn’t know, and in a way that gives clarity about the era in which they lived.
•The main character is Cora Blake. She is an exceptional woman. She is strong and resilient. She takes the initiative to be a friend to people outside her society and culture’s comfort zone. She has the confidence to step out and be a friend to a stranger in need. This is a quality I admire: people who are caring and they take the initiative to act.
•The story slowly reveals a mystery surrounding Cora’s circumstances.
•Other female characters have secondary stories. These women are from different areas of America and France. They are from different economic backgrounds. They have different Christian denominational beliefs or no belief at all. They have different personalities. They are reflective of women living during the 1920s. This gave me a wide lens view of women in this era.
•A Star for Mrs. Blake showed me something I just realized after turning 50. There are different types of love and different levels of love. Now, I’m going to be more descriptive. Men and women really can be friends with no sex. Men and women can love each other with no sex. Of course if the two of them are sexually attracted to one another this makes things difficult. We hear stories about women who love their female friends, but what about men and women who are best friends? One of the greatest joys in my life is  friendship with men. In A Star for Mrs. Blake, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see this type of relationship and love!
•Grieving is a strong element in the story. No one person grieves the same, because we are all unique and individual people. This is such a bonus feature in the book. To see the differences in grieving and how it is displayed. Grieving is laborious. It’s intensive. There is no time limit. And, it is not like getting over the flu. We will always miss that loved one, but we come to a point when we must continue life without them.

What I disliked about A Star for Mrs. Blake:
•I didn’t like the ending. I feel Cora Blake settled. However, Cora’s choice may have been a response to continuing on in life.

Amazon link

(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) Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor

Beyond the Moon_Blog Tour PosterBeyond the Moon_web

 

Publisher and Publication Date:
The Cameo Press Ltd. June 25, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Fantasy fiction. Romance. World War I.
Pages: 496.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy, but I was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War I. Romance. Dual time periods.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
The kindle copy is free in Kindle Unlimited.

Book tour landing page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About the author:
Catherine Taylor was born and grew up on the island of Guernsey in the British Channel Islands. She is a former journalist, most recently for Dow Jones News and The Wall Street Journal in London. Beyond The Moon is her first novel. She lives in Ealing, London with her husband and two children.
Catherine Taylor website
Catherine Taylor

Summary:
Outlander meets Birdsong is this haunting debut timeslip novel, where a strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War and a young woman living in modern-day England a century later.
*Shortlisted for the Eharmony/Orion Write Your Own Love Story Prize 2018/19
In 1916 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett is a patient at Coldbrook Hall military hospital in Sussex, England. A gifted artist, he’s been wounded fighting in the Great War. Shell shocked and suffering from hysterical blindness he can no longer see his own face, let alone paint, and life seems increasingly hopeless.
A century later in 2017, medical student Louisa Casson has just lost her beloved grandmother – her only family. Heartbroken, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol on the South Downs cliffs – only to fall accidentally part-way down. Doctors fear she may have attempted suicide, and Louisa finds herself involuntarily admitted to Coldbrook Hall – now a psychiatric hospital, an unfriendly and chaotic place.
Then one day, while secretly exploring the old Victorian hospital’s ruined, abandoned wing, Louisa hears a voice calling for help, and stumbles across a dark, old-fashioned hospital room. Inside, lying on the floor, is a mysterious, sightless young man, who tells her he was hurt at the Battle of the Somme, a WW1 battle a century ago. And that his name is Lieutenant Robert Lovett…
Two people, two battles: one against the invading Germans on the battlefields of 1916 France, the other against a substandard, uncaring mental health facility in modern-day England. Two journeys begun a century apart, but somehow destined to coincide – and become one desperate struggle to be together.
Part WW1 historical fiction, part timeslip love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art – Beyond The Moon sweeps the reader on an unforgettable journey through time. An intelligent read, perfect for book clubs.

For fans of Diana Gabaldon, Amy Harmon, Beatriz Williams, Kate Quinn, Kristin Hannah, Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Paullina Simons.

“A poignant and stirring love story… Taylor’s accomplished, genre-bending book succeeds as a WW1 historical novel and a beguiling, time travel romance… The sharply written narrative deftly moves back and forth between the past and present.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A time travel romance, yet so much more than that. It is also an unflinching portrait of the horrors of war, and a look at the torturous extremes a human soul can endure. It is a sonnet to the transformative power of love, even as it is also a criticism of the futility and pointless destructiveness of war.” — Shaylin Gandhi, author of By The Light of Embers

My Thoughts:
This is a first novel for Catherine Taylor!
Beyond The Moon is a busy story. It’s busy because several themes are running through it. Examples of themes: PTSD, war, depression, survival, love, death, prison, art, medical practices, family, friendship, private hospitalization/treatment center practices, pacifist, and addictions. The lengthy list of themes, and the categories the book fits, had to have been a very big challenge for Taylor. I believe she pulled it all together for a great story. I read the book in two days! The story held my attention until the end, because I had to know how the story would wrap up with the two main characters.
Dual time periods has become common in historical fiction books. In other books, the dual time periods go back and forth with the change of each chapter. Beyond The Moon allowed one time period to stay through repeated chapters at times. This gave me a chance to relax.
Solid description writing of the scenery that helped me become apart of the story.
Taylor is wonderful at painting the scenes.
Great dialogue. In one scene, people are having a conversation about the war (World War I.) This conversation gave me an idea of how people on both sides felt about the war.
Fantastic reading about medical practices used during World War I. Some of the practices are primitive, yet they are on the edge of transformation in learning new things.
The ending is not believable, but I consider this story to be fantasy.
A wonderful first novel! Bravo.

Giveaway: (Impressions In Ink is only posting the material for the giveaway.)
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two paperback copies of Beyond the Moon by Catherine Taylor! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules!
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on December 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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Link for the giveaway: https://gleam.io/lAcVI/beyond-the-moon