Title: A Wartime Nurse
Author: Maggie Hope
Publisher: Ebury Press 2011
Reviewer: Carlson Coogler, intern, Nursing Times
What was it like?
A Wartime Nurse is a novel that follows the life of Theda Wearmouth, both before, during and after WWII. After her training she begins working in a children’s ward and gets engaged to a soldier, Alan Price, who was later killed in the war. When the hospital rearranges staff, she is sent to work in a prisoner of war’s ward. This change forces Theda to develop professionally and personally as she cares for the German soldiers. As a co-worker develops feelings for Theda, this becomes the central relationship of the book.
What were the highlights?
Theda’s character shows the determination, compassion and courage of a nurse who is trying to live a complete life — both with a thriving career and deep relationships — in an era overshadowed by war. The familial relationships are well-written, highlighting the complicated emotions and loyalty that exist between a parent and a child and between siblings. The most poignant moment in the book is the Christmas party on the ward. The author presents both the good in humanity, as children receive hand-carved toys from the prisoners of war from the other ward, and the ignorance of caustic hatred.
Strengths & weaknesses:
The plot is driven largely by relationships between characters. The excitement, uncertainty, joy and misunderstandings of romantic relationships, keep the story from becoming too heavy with the sorrows and responsibilities of a wartime nurse. However, I would have preferred to have seen more of Theda’s emotions and struggles, such as when she lost Alan and when she was nursing enemy soldiers. Loss is universal, and healthy grieving is important. Likewise, a deeper exploration of how a nurse handles a situation in which he or she has to overcome bias in order to give the best possible care is just as necessary today as it was then.
Who should read it?
Anyone who enjoys a light and engaging historical romance or is interested in period nursing, will find this novel interesting and entertaining. Since the plot is easy to follow, it is perfect for reading as a break after a long shift.