[Review] Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley

Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Crime, an imprint of Pegasus Books, Ltd. Distributed by Simon and Schuster. September 6, 2022.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 428 written pages. And 52 black and white illustrations.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Fans of Agatha Christie. Readers of women in literature.
Rating: Excellent!

Link at the publisher for more information: Pegasus Crime.

Link at Amazon.

Link at Barnes and Noble.

Lucy Worsley Goodreads author page.

Website for Lucy Worsley/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter.

Summary:

Lucy Worsley expresses that Agatha Christie wanted people to have the impression she was an “ordinary” person, an “ordinary” woman. This is untrue. How can a woman who was born in the late Victorian era who rose above the culture and society of that day to become a successful author of mystery books be considered ordinary? Agatha Christie was a trail blazer in this genre. She was a trail blazer as far as her generation of women having a successful writing career.

Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman is a biography of the whole life of an amazing woman. It touches on every area of her life. It does not focus on one aspect. For example, her writing career.

Lucy Worsley is a historian and curator. She is knowledgeable about the research process. Her expertise is strongly noticed in this new work.

My Thoughts:

I have An Autobiography by Agatha Christie on Kindle but have not read it yet.

I have three other books, one a collection of her stories, all on Kindle.

I am currently reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I’m planning to read as many of her mysteries/crime fiction as possible.

I’m a newbie to Agatha Christie. I knew very little about her personal life before reading Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley. This is a good thing in that most of what I read is fresh. I consider this book a fresh perspective of the whole of Agatha Christie. This is the first reason why I love this book!

Additional reasons why I love this book:

  1. It does not leave me with an unfulfilled curiosity about parts of her life that was left untouched in the biography. What I mean is the bio takes in every area of her life as a person, wife, mother, daughter, writer, traveler, divorced woman, single mother, and career woman.
  2. I enjoyed reading about her work during WWI and WWII. She is quick to enlist in helping with the war effort and wounded.
  3. I enjoyed reading about her life as a child, especially the parenting roles of her parents, and their homelife.
  4. I enjoyed reading about her unique personality and character. Even as a child, there is something about her that stood out as unique and gifted.
  5. Worsley points out Christie’s prejudice opinions about domestic help and people of other races are common for that era. The reader should not be quick to dismiss her or judge her books based on our current history, society, culture, and beliefs.
  6. Worsely reminds me where most of the females of the early 20th century worked. In 1901, there are only 31.6% of females in Britain employed. Most of them worked in the textile and domestic areas. This book will not give a strong history lesson in females in the work force during Agatha Christie’s life. The statistic is given to share the standard in respect to her life. She was expected to marry and marry well. She was not expected to have a paid writing career.
  7. I enjoyed reading about the first serious relationship Agatha had with her first husband, Archie. World War I started to put a damper on their courting. However, they sped things up by a quick marriage in late 1914.
  8. I enjoyed reading about her crafting of the characters in her books. For example, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
  9. I love how Worsley included the writing and publishing of Christie’s books plus what was simultaneously going on in her personal life.
  10. I enjoyed reading about what Christie thought about her own writing, especially in regard to her contribution to the mystery literature world.
  11. The period of time in 1926 when Christie is missing. This period in time is a strength of the book. Worsley takes her time in piecing together the steps during Christie’s disappearance, as well as her return and her own remembrance. It was during this part of the book that I became so captivated I lost track of time.
  12. I read the book in two days!

[Review] The Light Attendant: A Canadian Bluebird Novel, Part One by Wendy Fehr

Publisher and Publication Date: ShiftersPress. February 17, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. War literature. Nursing history during World War I.
Pages: 303.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary NetGalley Kindle e-book. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war stories, World War I, and romance.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon. The Kindle copy is $2.99.

Part Two of the book is @ this link: Amazon. It is $3.99.

Wendy Fuhr @ Goodreads.

Info on Wendy Fuhr at ShiftersPress/ Instagram/ Twitter/ Facebook.

Summary:

Two main characters: Henry Ryzak and Abbigail or Abbi Grieves. They are both from Canada. They were both raised on farms. Henry is the second son, and there is animosity between him and his father. Abbi and her father do not see eye to eye on a scheme her father has planned to involve her life and the farm.

A year after World War I begins, Henry’s older brother enlists. Henry enlists to keep watch over him.

Abbi talks her father in to letting her go to nursing school, but there is a requirement for her after returning. She must fulfill an obligation.

Abbigail finished nursing school and became a Canadian Nursing Sister or Bluebird for the war.

Abbi and Henry both experience the war but from different views and experiences.

Their lives will intersect, and first impressions will be different for both. However, war has a way of changing people.

My Thoughts:

I love this story! I have several reasons why I love it.

1. This story is what I had been looking for several months ago when I began to read a couple of other books about this historical event. I wanted to read about medical care for the injured during World War I. In one of the books, it seemed more focused on the extra activities of the medical personnel and the soldiers, rather than on their roles in the war. The other book gave me more knowledge about the physicians who operated on the injured. The Light Attendant shares the gritty details of what they actually did-on a daily basis, and during specific missions.

2. One of the reasons I love this story is that even though romance is a theme, it does not take away or distract from the events and personal experiences of war. What I mean is often when I read a book about two people who care for one another and they are both directly involved in the war effort, the romantic aspect totally shifts the story and can even hijack the overall story. The war then becomes a background, and this is never the reality during a time of war.

3. War is horrific, violent, lengthy, and damaging. People who are in a war, whether they are in combat or in direct contact with caring for the injured are changed. They cannot go back to the people they were before. This is never said in the story, but I can tell by the behaviors and developments of the characters.

4. Some things I’d never thought about that a soldier did. He learned to care for his own needs. For example, mend a torn shirt. This is a task their mother or wife or sister did. Now, they must do this type of thing. This is a personal but important example to share about the soldiers.

5. I learned that injuries and death is not always on the battlefield but is a result of accidents or negligence on the part of the soldier or another soldier.

6. I love that Abbi demonstrates that nursing is a skill, but it is also showing compassion, patience, and care to the injured.

7. I love the comparison stories of Henry and Abbi. He will share his story and then in the next chapter the same scene is shared but it is through Abbi’s eyes and thoughts.

8. I love reading how triage is handled by Abbi. She is thrust into this task without having done this before. And triage is probably not a word used at this point in history, but it is still an act that must be implemented.

9. I love stories that will give me a panoramic sweeping view of what is happening. In a war, during a battle, the story can take a reader up close, and it can shift away for the reader to see the larger scene taking place. The same can be said of a hospital tent or the injured laying on the grounds in front of a hospital. To me this is such an important structure for a story! It brings the scene to life in my mind.

I love this book so much I bought the 2nd part of Henry and Abbi’s story.

[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

18484195
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