My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas is a 2012 Arrow- Random House publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Set in 1934 at the Nightingale Hosital in the East End, story follows a group of young ladies in training to be nurses. Each comes from a very different background and each has their own set of problems at home. By far, Dora has the worst home life due to the very poor living conditions. But, more than that, she has a step father that is hounding her and her ding bat mother doesn't appear to have a clue. So, for Dora the chance to be an nurse feels like a do or die situation. She has to make it or return home to the conditions she doesn't think she could bear any longer.
The other girls- Amelia- "MIllie" is a girl that is expected to marry well and and since she comes from gentry, a career as a nurse in not what is expected of her. However, Millie is determined to fight against tradition and go her own way in life, with her father's blessing but to the chagrin of her grandmother. But, Millie struggles with her studies and has to fight an uphill battle just to stay in the program.
Helen's mother is on the hospital board and therefore she is often suspected of being a spy and is treated with disdain. She is quiet and just as much of a victim of her mother's rules as the other nurses.
The secondary characters provide conflict and romances, as well as the Sisters that run the hospital with rigid standards and are always keeping a very close eye on the girls. Behind the scenes politics provide a glimpse into the administration and how things were done back in this time period.
The rules and regulations, the procedures used on patients , the difficulties each of the nurses faced all combined to make this book more than just a historical romance or fiction novel. The deeper you go the more sucked into the lives and dramas of these girls . Since this is British fiction, it is very noticable in the language and mannerisms and expectations of the characters and for me this was part of the charm. This is an adult novel due to adult situations, but there is no harsh language or explicit sex. The author keeps things true to the time period and does an excellent job of giving each girl an equal share of attention and fleshing out the characters for the reader. You will love some and dislike others and you will cheer for some and feel pain for others. Overall this is a great start to the trilogy and I am looking forward to the next book!
This one is 4.5 stars rounded to 5
I’ve always loved telling stories. Even before I could hold a pen, I would sit on top of the coal bunker in our south London back yard, making up tales in my head. My greatest joy was when my grandmother bought me an exercise book, which I could fill with stories (a shiny new notebook still gives me a thrill now – oh, the endless possibilities of those empty pages!).I read voraciously, too. There were no books in our home and my grandfather disapproved of reading, but my grandmother would sneak me off to the local library, which opened up a whole new world. I also loved comics, especially Bunty, with its wonderfully melodramatic serials. How I used to look forward to my nan coming home on a Saturday lunchtime so I could get the next instalment!
When I was 19, I landed my dream job – writing photo love stories for a teenage magazine. Suddenly I was being paid for doing what I’d always done, making up stories. A few ‘real’ jobs in journalism followed, but I always longed to go back to my first love of storytelling.
When I was 40, I published my first novel, Waiting in the Wings, under the name of Donna Hay. The novel won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award. Seven contemporary romantic comedies followed. But although I loved writing romance (and still do!), I always wanted to try something a bit grittier. So when my publisher suggested I might like to write some stories set in an East End hospital, I jumped at the chance.
I researched endlessly, talking to former nurses, reading books and journals and raiding archives. And the more I read, the more fascinated I became. I decided to start at the beginning of the story, with three students taking their first steps into nursing. I also decided to give them very different backgrounds, to see how they coped. And so The Nightingale Girls was born.
There are so many more stories to be told, and the more I research, the more I find. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!