Publication Information: Arrow, 2012, available in paperback or digital edition
Genre: Historical Fiction/Nursing
Plot: Three very different young women attend nursing school at Florence Nightingale Hospital in London’s East End in 1934 and become friends. Dora Doyle is an inarticulate young woman from the slums whose enthusiasm and work ethic impresses the new matron sufficiently to gain her a place in the training class. Dora wants to be a nurse but she also desperately wants to escape her vicious stepfather so is grateful that training includes accommodation at the hospital. Dora is assigned to room with two young women from more privileged backgrounds. Millie Benedict is the only daughter of an earl and could lead a life of luxury and fun but after one official Season she refused to stay home and allow her grandmother to find an eligible husband, determined to find something worthwhile to do. Despite good intentions, Millie had a hard time with her first three months of training and is on probation – she will be dropped from the program for any transgression. Helen Tremayne is the third roommate, brilliant but shy and lacking in confidence, overshadowed by her carefree brother, a young doctor at the hospital. Her unpleasant mother, Constance Tremayne, is on the Board of Trustees and insists on controlling every aspect of Helen’s life. Constance is appalled by the slack standards of young people and is on a one-woman crusade to keep the Nightingale trainees focused on their nursing responsibilities. However, all three young women have admirers and cannot work 24 hours a day, which adds dimension to the story.
This book is set about five years before the outbreak of WWII – I hope the series continues until then. You know I love women and war work!
Audience: Fans of historical fiction and of Call the Midwife; women who enjoyed reading about Sue Barton and Cherry Ames in their youth. Click here for my other recommendations for fans of Call the Midwife.
What I liked: I have always been a fan of books about nurses, as well as of books about young women from different backgrounds who become friends. While some of the plot was predictable (Dora’s stepfather’s behavior), I enjoyed the description of hospital life, from the lowly porters (don’t overlook how helpful they can be if you are a trainee nurse slipping in after curfew) to the new matron, Kathleen Fox. Chosen by the Board of Trustees to modernize the hospital, the new Matron faces challenges from the colleague overlooked for the job and from the sanctimonious Mrs. Tremayne (why is the villainess always named Constance?) as she tries to run the busy hospital. I hope she gets her own book!
Paperback editions are not available in the US but Ms. Douglas sent me this helpful link to Great British Reads which US readers can use to buy her ebooks.
Source: This is the first book I read from NetGalley. Thank you to Random House UK for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review. This is the first in a series and I am eager to read more. Several years ago I read two of Donna Douglas’ books written as Donna Hay, which I also liked.