The War Nurse by Tracy Enerson Wood
A few years ago, the Canadian government released the personnel files for the soldiers who fought in WWI. I was fascinated to find my great-grandfather’s records. He’d arrived in England in 1918, only to be struck with influenza. He was released from the hospital just one week before the war ended and sent home after that.
Reading The War Nurse by Tracy Enerson Wood, I was immediately transported to this gritty field hospital in France. The story follows the real-life figure of Julia Catherine Stimson, an American nurse. The team of nurses worked tirelessly to serve those wounded in battle. But what struck home for me, was the mention of those who were hospitalized with influenza before seeing action. This is a remarkable bit of history that I hadn’t heard expounded upon in a novel before. Not only did it give me insight into my grandfather’s story, it felt especially applicable for our own pandemic-weary world.
About The War Nurse:
(From the publisher): She asked dozens of young women to lay their lives on the line during the Great War. Can she protect them?
Superintendent of Nurses Julia Stimson must recruit sixty-five nurses to relieve the battle-worn British, months before American troops are ready to be deployed. She knows that the young nurses serving near the front lines of will face a challenging situation, but nothing could have prepared her for the chaos that awaits when they arrive at British Base Hospital 12 in Rouen, France. The primitive conditions, a convoluted, ineffective system, and horrific battle wounds are enough to discourage the most hardened nurses, and Julia can do nothing but lead by example―even as the military doctors undermine her authority and make her question her very place in the hospital tent.
When trainloads of soldiers stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness arrive one after the other, overwhelming the hospital’s limited resources, and threatening the health of her staff, Julia faces an unthinkable choice―to step outside the bounds of her profession and risk the career she has fought so hard for, or to watch the people she cares for most die in her arms.
Based on a true story, The War Nurse is a sweeping historical novel by international bestselling author Tracey Enerson Wood that takes readers on an unforgettable journey through WWI France.
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The War Nurse does a great job of highlighting a group of incredible women. It’s a testament to the ingenuity, bravery and compassion of nurses during that time period. I hadn’t heard of Julia Stimson before and was very moved by her story. Her dreams were big and bold, and she helped pave the way for the future of nursing as a profession.
Truthfully, this story had a bit of a slow start for me. The writing felt very straightforward and occasionally veered into telling rather than showing. In addition, some of the facts shared were highly interesting but didn’t feel naturally placed within the dialogue. However, once I got into the story and the style of writing, I was absolutely hooked.
Julia Stimson is a powerful character who fights for her patients and her team of nurses. I also appreciated that there wasn’t any actual battle described in the scenes. Oftentimes, books set at the front have lengthy war facts or descriptions. Instead, the story was very much focused on the field hospital and the medical team working there. This made for a much more personal read. Specifically exploring the role of a head nurse felt like a new and refreshing take on WWI novels.
The book feels well researched and blends fact and fiction seamlessly. I also appreciate an author’s notes and interviews at the end of a novel –– and was grateful for those here!
A touching and informative read. I leave this one with four, lovely stars!