Based on actual historical events and people, this novel is a powerful and moving tribute to the Australian nurses, doctors, allied health workers and civilian volunteers – British too – who did all they could for the men and women who survived the horrors of the WWI battlefields.
When Australian nurse, Sister Cora Baker, has the opportunity to serve her country at a newly established hospital in Middlesex England in a little village called Harefield in 1915, she doesn’t hesitate. Harefield House, donated to the Australian army by some generous expatriates so it can be turned into a hospital to care for wounded Australian soldiers, Cora works with other Aussie medical staff to establish and transform the grand house.
Not knowing quite what to expect, as the war rages on and the casualty and death count grow, Harefield House is overwhelmed and all too soon, Cora and the other nurses and doctors are working around the clock, exhausted but determined to do their duty. When they call for volunteers, a local, young seamstress, Jessica Chester steps up.
It’s while working at the hospital that she meets Private Bert Mott, a recuperating soldier who is destined, like so many others they care for, to be returned to the front.
As endless stream of injured and dying enter and leave the care of the dedicated nurses and doctors, it’s apparent the nurses are fighting their own kind of war, one defined by bandages, pain relief, and an abundance of loving care. But is it enough when despair, fatigue and a crushing sense of failure abide with them as well?
The Nurses’ War is an amazing story of a little-known chapter in Australian, British and war history. It doesn’t steer away from portraying the brutal realities of the physical, psychological and emotional wounds inflicted upon the soldiers, the courage of those at the front, but also that of those who fought a silent, different and harsh battle behind the lines – one of healing, resilience and hope.
Heart-achingly raw yet filled with the beauty of the human spirit, this is an important and ultimately triumphant story of Australia’s part in the Great War and what happened in the aftermath – when peace was finally reached and an unforeseen enemy arose to fell yet more. The novel explores love, loss, incredible bravery, fortitude, frustration, failure and above all, hope. It shows that heroes wear all kinds of faces and uniforms.
The Nurses’ War is a triumph that will linger in my heart and soul a long time. The Authors Notes at the end are wonderful as well. Here, Victoria not only reveals the real history behind the novel and how these people are commemorated even to this day, but a very personal link to the story as well. So incredibly moving. I should also add a caveat – I was given the privilege of reading an Advanced Readers’ Copy of this book – an ARC – and asked if I would endorse it. Hence, my quote on the front cover. Authors don’t endorse lightly, and I was proud – especially as an ex-service member – to do just that for this wonderful book.