Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Arrow (16 Aug. 2012)
Dora is from working class background, her Mother remarried to support her family the stepfather could drive the family apart. She gets into the prestigious Nursing training school at Nightingales and starts her career with girls from a more educated class.
This is a story about the girls who are training in Nightingales Hospital to be nurses. Dora our first girl is also about her family: Mum, kids and Stepfather. The girls sleeping in one bed envious of Dora for having her own room. But when Dora leaves to become a nurse she is taking the darkest secret with her, fearful for her sister Jose, who inherits her room. The other girls from privileged backgrounds, their families and journey to becoming nurses.
The story encompasses love and disability, in a time when soldiers came back damaged and had to find work.
What did I think?
Was it different and why would I recommend it?
I enjoyed this book because it was more of a global story: a family, nursing, social stigma, abuse, class and social standing.
I enjoyed the characters and the way that I felt that they captured the era. The small expectations, the simple pleasures that they looked forward to. The things they put up with living in the nurses house whilst training.
I found it interesting that the Nightingales hospital in the East End of London should attract such girls of class, although I guess it was about helping the poor.
The Nightingale Girls is about romance and class differences and life in the hospital system.
Strengths or weaknesses of the characters?
I enjoyed how Donna Douglas made each of the characters so individual. Helen’s who was afraid of her overbearing Mother Constance who refused to allow her to live normally and Constance was a trustee of the hospital she still couldn’t escape her.
I liked Dora, her family and neighbourhood, whose mother who seemed to be programmed to look after the household without any strong opinions on anything. I enjoyed the way Dora’s character became stronger after leaving to go nursing. There is a nice line that shows Rose, Dora’s Mum perfectly:
“That sounds nice.’ Rose smiled down at her mending. She never stopped working, no matter what the occasion. King George himself could come round for his tea, and Rose would still be turning the collars on a couple of shirts.”
Douglas also mentions the smell of Mansion Polish, never heard of it? Wonderful! Brought back memories of polishing our own square oak table with barley twist legs at home…..
There was a day when Sisters and Matrons were feared by the staff in hospitals, and it was great to read how each of the their very strong individual characters felt so real.
A wonderful mix of characters throughout the story who I could see as I read made it so enjoyable.
What did I like best?
This is not a book of fast moving, exciting turns, it is a more durable story that can be read again. This makes it a book worth reading when you want something more gentle but definitely something with substance. With today’s difficulties in the NHS reading how nursing used to be after the WWI is very thought provoking.
I love how Douglas manages to give a real sense of everyday life at the same time as giving a picture of the characters.
This book covers a lot of issues that hasn’t changed over the passage of time. Step-parents, abuse, forbidden love, love and sacrifice, issues of class,
All of this is interwoven into the lives of the young women who choose to become nurses.
I was enthralled with their lives and enjoyed how the story effortlessly put me right into the day. It is always good to have some devious characters to dislike in books and Douglas did not disappoint me here, I did enjoy them.
Many thanks to the Publisher for a copy of this ebook via NetGalley